By W. D. Aley
When I was just 17 years old, a doctor in northwest Washington State proposed that if I stayed where I was in life and did not change my ways, the only recourse for me would be a total frontal lobotomy.
My Dad thought that if he could make a man out of me, then I might avoid that fate. That’s why he decided to enlist me in the Navy. In those days, one had to be extremely secretive about some of the things you thought or did. We knew this from the first lie we agreed to when we enlisted. But we enlisted anyway.
We worked among those who would throw us overboard when a couple of thousand miles from shore or watch us fall down a ladder or get locked in an air vent. Fortunately, the Military has changed now. As for me, I had to learn to forgive and let go of my anger.
When I was an E-5 (petty officer 2nd class) on my second enlistment, my CO (commanding officer) found out that I was living off base with a gay guy. That’s all she knew; that’s all she needed to know. She said either I must move out or she would not recommend me for reenlistment.
I was not recommended for reenlistment after nine and a half years in the Navy. However, I had my honorable discharge, the GI Bill and plenty of determination. Today I have a Bachelors degree and 32 years of government service.
I have in many small ways added to the safety and care of this country that I have contributed to my entire adult life. I have helped to change laws that needed to be changed.
The stories we may have to share are not always funny or entertaining but they are our history. They may never get recorded in history books or at the Smithsonian Institution but when we share them, our common bond is reconnected.
Maybe what we did was for some small amount of time important and for this, we should be proud.
We must also remember that throughout its long history, the U.S. Military excluded gays, lesbians, bisexuals and those who were transgender because they were deemed ‘unfit’ for service. The Military did not take a positive stand on this issue until May, 2011.
It then did “an abrupt about-face on guidance allowing same-sex marriages on military bases after receiving a flood of criticism from Capitol Hill, as well as discussions with Defense Department lawyers.” This reversed the long-held practice of “Don’t ask; don’t tell.”