Promotion

Clay is in the National Guard.  His next drill (UTA) will be his first after DADT repeal, and is also the day he will be promoted.  And guess what?  It is also his base’s ‘Family Day’.  Oh, the irony…

(I have never been to any of his base’s family days.  I have never been to any of his promotion ceremonies.  I have never been to any of his deployment ceremonies.  I have never been to any of his homecoming ceremonies.)

This promotion is a big one for Clay, as it was his goal to reach this rank before retirement; and I’ve made it no secret that I want to go to the ceremony.  But I also knew that it would not be me that decides if and when he comes out to his unit.  In fact, when asked about life after DADT repeal, Clay has steadfastly maintained that he doesn’t plan on coming out anytime soon.  He has always said that he doesn’t want to be anyone’s poster boy – that he just wants to do his job, serve his country and be a good soldier.

Yesterday, he asked me to be there when he gets promoted.

Clay has never been comfortable being the center of attention, you see.  He’s always the first one to arrive, and the last one to leave  – quietly doing whatever is necessary to get the job done without worrying about who gets the credit.  He fears that his coming out will be, at best, a distraction from the work that he needs to get done.

But, in just a few days, he will sit down with his his best-friend-on-base (and former supervisor) and have ‘the talk’.  He wants to discuss the possible implications/repercussions for the unit, and Clay chose him to be the first because he respects him above all others.  They went to Iraq together.

It’s all such a crazy mix of emotions… We’ve fought so hard for freedom to serve openly, yet those first steps into that bright spotlight are terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.  What a strange release it is to tear off that suffocating mask, yet hold your breath in anticipation of what’s to come.

Ultimately, it must have felt dishonorable for him to continue this lie after all that has happened.  The official reason for this conflict of integrity – this necessity to deceive in order to serve your country – has vanished with the stroke of a pen.  The door of the cage was cast open, but how resentful he must have been of the bars that promised bittersweet protection if he chose to remain inside.

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White House Statement

September 20, 2011

Statement by the President on the Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Today, the discriminatory law known as ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is finally and formally
repealed.  As of today, patriotic Americans in uniform will no longer have to lie about who they are in order to serve the country they love.  As of today, our armed forces will no longer lose the extraordinary skills and combat experience of so many gay and lesbian service members. And today, as Commander in Chief, I want those who were discharged under this law to know that your country deeply values your service.
I was proud to sign the Repeal Act into law last December because I knew that it would enhance our national security, increase our military readiness, and bring us closer to the principles of equality and fairness that define us as Americans.  Today’s achievement is a tribute to all the patriots who fought and marched for change; to Members of Congress, from both parties, who voted for repeal; to our civilian and military leaders who ensured a smooth transition; and to the professionalism of our men and women in uniform who showed that they were ready to move forward together, as one team, to meet the missions we ask of them.

For more than two centuries, we have worked to extend America’s promise to all our citizens.  Our armed forces have been both a mirror and a catalyst of that progress, and our troops, including gays and lesbians, have given their lives to defend the freedoms and liberties that we cherish as Americans.  Today, every American can be proud that we have taken another great step toward keeping our military the finest in the world and toward fulfilling our nation’s founding ideals.

Midnight

The twelfth chime of the clock at midnight will be the last nail in the coffin of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It’s been one hell of a journey. I want to thank my husband for having the courage to stand up for his country when so many politicians over the years didn’t have the guts to stand up for him.  We did it, Babe.

Clueless

This conversation just happened at Clay’s civilian job:

Idiot: You’re in the military?

Clay: Yes, I am.

Idiot: What do you do?

Clay: I’m a _____ (job that involves guns).

Idiot: Wow, do they let you shoot people?  It’s no fun having a gun unless they let you shoot people.

Really?  Now, this wasn’t some wet-behind-the-ears teenager from the mailroom.  It was, in fact, a 50-something year old man who runs our company’s employee assistance fund.  I was dumbfounded.  Clay blinked rapidly a few times and then quickly and politely brushed him off.  I held my breath wondering if it would trigger anything with his PTSD, but he has thankfully made so much progress on that front.

Ever since Clay got back from Iraq he has been asked stupid questions like, “So, did you kill anyone?”  Now, these were never in intimate conversational settings amongst very close friends where someone might be forgiven for thinking such a question would be appropriate… (For the record – it never is.)

Instead, people pop this disturbing question in very public places – in front of groups of people – slipping it right into the conversation as if they were asking if he’d ever ridden a horse or gone scuba diving.

Not cool, people.  Not cool at all.

September 11th Rememberances

1. When I was a sophomore in high school I somehow fell in with this group of senior girls. Thinking back, I have no idea how this happened. They invited me to a Go-Go’s concert (with A Flock of Seagulls opening) in September of 1982 and we hung out for the rest of the year; until they all went off to college.

Although this didn’t make me cool in the eyes of certain senior boys that I followed around (with my eyes) like a puppy, it did give me standing with a fringe clique of the afore mentioned senior girls. Because of this, this odd girl Anne asked me to her Senior prom. I had no idea who she was, but said yes. I remember she liked to go and drink in cemeteries by herself. It was the first time I stayed out all night.

And then there was Nina (pronounced Nine-uh, NOT Neee-nuh). We were friends in school, but didn’t party together. She was tall-ish and pale, with long, straight black hair. She was a gifted artist, and was sophisticatedly troubled. She lived in New York City but for reasons that were never discussed, attended our suburban school.

That year the fall dance was held in the school cafeteria. The huge round tables that sat 10 or so were folded up and pushed to the side – except for a few near the entrance to stack our coats on.

The Go-Go’s crowd and I had gone into the woods behind the school with a 5th of peppermint schnapps before going in (this was standard practice). While I was flailing about on the dance floor to “Don’t you want me baby” I was making mock punching gestures at my friend Kristina. Keith (from my class) walked in between us, and right into one. I smacked him dead-on in the jaw. His head snapped back and he just kept on walking. My cold sweat was for naught – he wasn’t going to beat me to a pulp. He had been to the woods with his friends also, and didn’t even feel me punch him.

At the end of the evening I spotted Nina over by the tables with the coats stacked high. As I was talking to her the same Keith stumbled over and stood next to her, weaving slightly as he stared at her. She ignored him. He finally slurred out a very sorry, amateurish pick-up line.

When it was obvious that he wasn’t going to give up, Nina held out her hand and said, “Excuse me Brad”, turning fully to address Keith. She surveyed him from head to toe and announced, “Listen little boy, don’t start something you won’t be able to finish.” He sat there wide-eyed for a moment – that punch he felt. Then he turned around and vomited all over the coats.

Keith was cute, and I had a mild crush on him and his very full lips. He was a bit gangly, but not in a awkward sense – he just hadn’t fully grown into his body yet. He was athletic but not a jock. He was part of a cooler crowd, but I never heard him harass or make fun of anyone.

When I went to get my coat for my walk home I soon realized that it had taken the full force of Keith’s chunk-blowing. This was a problem because I had borrowed my older brother’s coveted brown Member’s Only jacket without telling him. I ended up stashing it in the garage in a plastic bag (where it stayed for years) – and played dumb as he tore the house apart looking for it.

Keith and his younger brother worked for Cantor Fitzgerald in Tower One of the World Trade Center, and were both lost on September 11th.

2.On September 6th, 2001, Clay and I had a boring six hour layover at the lovely Newark Liberty International Airport. We sat at the end of our concourse, looking across the Hudson River at lower Manhattan, and watching the planes take off and land.

“I’ve never been to the World Trade Center”, he said. “Promise me that you’ll take me to see it.”

“Yes, yes. I promise.”

It was the thing to do, after all. Years ago, any time my college friends would come to visit we would take the hour long train ride into Grand Central, then the subway downtown. We always ended up on the observation deck, on top of tower two. The views were, of course, spectacular.

Below the outdoor deck was an indoor observation floor with gift shops, food, educational displays, etc. Here, in just the right spot, you could climb up (you weren’t supposed to) and press yourself up against the giant window panes. When you looked down you couldn’t see any of tower two below you – you were just floating high above the city. Your stomach would lurch a little and vertigo would set in. It felt like you would start tumbling forward at any second.

Sometimes my friends would step down quickly, not liking the feeling at all. But I would stay with palms and face stuck to the glass, as long as I dared.

Troy and I continued on to Maine that day. We were there to cheer on our good friends who were riding their bicycles from Montreal to Portland, Maine to raise money for AIDS research. What a wonderful celebration it was when they road across that finish line; these non-professional athletes who pushed themselves beyond ordinary endurance to help their fellow man.

And so, when it came time for us to fly to New York on September 10th, we changed our minds and decided to hang out in Maine just a little longer. We’d check out the World Trade Center on another day… On the morning of September 11, instead of waiting in line for the opening of the observation deck of tower two, we were making breakfast at my Mom’s place.