April 15, 2009

DADT and the Age Gap

The retired flag officers who wrote the op-ed in today's Washington Post arguing that homosexuals should not be allowed to serve in the military were born in 1934, 1936, 1935, and 1930. Their average age is 75.5 years.

One of the things I have noticed in some pretty extensive conversations on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" with both my fellow veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and the older generation of veterans who won the Cold War is the tremendous generational gap between the two groups of warriors on the issue of homosexuals in the military. Honestly, I cannot speak for all my peers, but I could personally care less whether or not openly gay persons serve in the military. There are so very few who stand up to be counted when their nation is at war that we could use as many brave and patriotic men and women as we can get. I would personally have no problem serving with, under the command of, or in command of someone who was openly homosexual. I just don't freaking care. And I knew several good soldiers with whom I served who came out of the closet once they left the service.

I will miss this older generation of warriors when they are no longer with us. I am under no illusion that my limited experience of war in Iraq and Afghanistan is a substitute for the kind of hard-won experience earned in Vietnam, Korea, and in the peacetime military at home and abroad. These men deserve our especial thanks for rebuilding the broken military after Vietnam. But I will not miss their attitudes on gays in the military. Those I will not miss.

For an example of what some of the younger generation thinks, be sure to check out what my friend (and card-carrying Republican, Marine, married father of two, and Iraq War veteran) Owen West wrote in the New York Times a few months back.

...six years of war have clarified priorities. The battlefield has its own values, starting with courage. Sexual orientation falls somewhere below musical taste. What a person chooses to do back stateside, off-duty, in his own apartment is irrelevant in a fight. For months I lived with 12 other American advisers on an Iraqi outpost. There was a single pipe shower next to a hole that masqueraded as a sewer. But the reality of combat dominated personality quirks — nobody wondered about sexual orientation.