July 13, 2009 is the date I decided to take a step towards changing my life for the better. This was the day I signed my name on the dotted line and gave it to my country. Before I get to in depth about my experiences, let me state that I am a professional and I treat my career as such; therefore, I must inform my audience that I do not speak for, or on the behalf of, the United States Armed Forces, Department of Defense, nor the Air Force. I am writing only about my experiences and giving my opinions that are not intended to be a reflection upon the military.
I joined the military willingly and knowing that in doing so I would have to adhere to and uphold the standards that are set forth to all militants, to include concealing my sexual identity due to the ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ policy. To be honest, at first, the idea didn’t faze me or compel me to change my mind about joining. I was in a relationship and my partner kept me as a secret any way, with her immediate family as the exception, so I was no stranger to being secretive about my love life or my lifestyle. This reason alone gave me the confidence I needed to know that I would be able to deal with the circumstances I was getting ready to face.
The DADT (don’t ask don’t tell) policy combined with my work load, stress, and the distance placed between my partner and I sure enough brought an abrupt end to what was once a good thing. Granted there were other problems between us that had nothing to do with my new career, but the rules and restrictions I had to follow most certainly only made things worse. I had a new found fear of public affection and I definitely didn’t want to much said about my relationship status via social network, because I knew the troubles I would have to deal with if I was found out.
I found it easier to distance myself from others at work as opposed to getting to comfortable with the wrong person and saying something to incriminate myself. I felt no one understood me. I had nowhere and no one to turn to for advice or to even just get things off my chest. I didn’t trust anyone enough to know that they wouldn’t turn me in only to save themselves in a case where anything went down. So I kept to myself. I was tired, I was scared, and I was lonely.
A little over a year later the DADT policy was repealed and I felt a huge chip had been lifted off my shoulder. I’m no longer afraid to talk to my co-workers about my love life, my problems, or my past. The reason for this is because I know that no matter who is listening in or who decides to gossip about what they have overheard, I don’t have to worry about that information falling into the wrong hands. There is no law stating that I can’t be involved or associated with the homosexual life style any longer so I am free to live my life out and proud, respectfully. I definitely feel more at ease and more comfortable when I show up to work every day and it feels good to know that I can be myself.
Currently I am single, but when I do decide to start another relationship it will be nice to know that I can bring her with me to military functions as my date and introduce her as my girlfriend and not as my “friend from back home”. It will be comforting to know that I would be able to take her out on the town or on a nice date night and not be afraid to hold her hand or worry about who may be listening in on our conversations. When the comes for me to deploy, I will be able to focus more on the mission because I know that there are places she would be able to turn to for support in the event that she ever needed it.
I am an Ac-130u crew chief in the United States Air Force. I maintain and deliver one of America’s most lethal birds in the sky on time when and where it is needed most to support our on the ground combatants. What I do day in and day out kills the bad guys and saves lives. I love my job and everything it stands for. It is both rewarding and promising. I am proud to say that I serve my country. It makes me even more proud because now I know that the progression of America’s freedoms, which we servicemen and women are willing to lay our lives on the line and fight for, is underway. The repeal of a policy that limits civil and social equalities such as the DADT is proof that our efforts are not in vain.