Ichabod's Kin
A place for politics, pop culture, and social issues

“Don’t Tell” the Marines

Official photograph of General David H. Petrae...

Image via Wikipedia

The military and war are personal legacies, my father’s entire family having fought for the Mexican Revolution, a civil war three times as long as ours. There, the Rebels won. My maternal grandfather fought in our Civil War, but was a Rebel in a losing cause. Had that Yankee bullet at Shiloh been a bit higher, I wouldn’t be writing this.
Men in our family expected life to be comprised of birth, fighting wars, and whatever may come after that. My brother, eager for war, came of age only in time to service the Army of Occupation in Germany. My brother-in-law was a Marine of that vintage.
In college I joined the National Guard and fired the highest score in my unit with long-range rifles the first time I ever held them in my hands. Disappointed with what I considered its lax discipline, I transferred to the Naval Reserve, applied for officer status and was poised to train when a bureaucratic yahoo discovered my student pre-ministerial status and deemed I should be a Chaplain.
I adamantly refused, preferring to be an officer “in the line” and, under threat of draft, resigned and awaited my lot, which never came. The irony is that my parents and grandparents did not expect to fight but had to; my brother and I were all too willing but fate would not permit.
Earlier this year we laid to rest the matriarch of my wife’s family, a proud Marine among the first women allowed in World War II, where she met her future husband, also a “Leatherneck.” She was never in combat because the war began to go our way, otherwise every soul regardless of sex would have been poured into the conflict.
She remained a proud one throughout life, quick to correct being called an ex-Marine, given that there is no such thing. She was active lifelong in the Devil Dogs where she was a striking, popular presence. At her memorial Marines placed the Flag in my wife’s hands, Taps played and the roar of gun salute accompanied the family’s exit between long, silent lines of vets from Rolling Thunder.
With such in mind, however, I dare to say there are not always “proud” moments, a word owned especially by Marines. Why they are the most opposed of all service branches to be rid of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” may be explained in part by the super-macho image. But if so, here again is a time for courage.
The blame for resistance to the policy is always laid at the feet of gays in the military, but no one wants to publicly explore the reasons. The psychology of the he-man has, in part, a sensitive aspect concerning the perceived threat to their “manhood.” Who are they most afraid of: gays, or themselves? Who is more macho than Israeli soldiers and those of many other countries where gays serve openly and courageously?
What is it about America and its arrested male culture that threatens such a firestorm of opposition over what should be a no-brainer? We’ve endured too many years of that flawed non-solution known as “DADT,” and military brass have made the most careful, studied and judicious of assessments, made by and including Defense Secretary Gates and General Petraeus (see photo). Why continue to obfuscate the issue and prolong the injustice?
What on earth has happened to John McCain, warrior himself, once willing to listen to reason, and provided with all the statistics he called for, yet stubborn to the point of inanity while holding up progress?
That McCain wants the matter put to a “referendum” of the rank and file, belies his own past preachments regarding the nature of military leadership. His are bogus arguments that shy from the heart of the issue. Who knows, mayhap his own manhood is threatened by the thought of gays openly in service to the nation’s armed forces and the wars they must prosecute.
Of course it is not to portray this as solely the Marines’ problem, given that there are soldiers in every branch who have issues with gay presence. But they are in the minority, and a great number of Marines don’t mind either.
A first day in a Guard emcampment, I misunderstood an order and thereby invoked the wrath of a superior. As I stammered my defense, beginning with, “But I thought….” he barked my new reality: “You’re not here to think, soldier; you’re here to obey orders!
Whatever happened to that, John McCain? Your “referendum” is the most slippery of slopes, and a military without orders would be a disaster. You don’t want to go there.

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4 Responses to ““Don’t Tell” the Marines”

  1. What gets me is that service personnel are trained to obey orders, even if they make no sense or having you charging cannons.

    On the other hand, some Neanderthals are saying that those same people can’t follow an order saying that gay folks are soldiers.

    The argument that you shouldn’t make changes in the middle of a war mean that we won’t EVER make a change, ’cause I don’t see conflicts going away anytime soon.

    If someone determined that pink uniforms would win the war, I bet everyone would be wearing pink uniforms in two weeks (assuming that the right defense contractor got the bid. The seams may fall apart in a week, but…).

    I think Sarah must have neutered poor John during the campaign.

  2. Women now serve on navy ships, fly jets and make carrier landings. This was unthinkable when I made my first carrier landing in 1956, so I am even older than John McCain. But I can not see a legitimate reason for gays and lesbians not to be allowed to serve openly in any military branch.

  3. The salient point you made regarding the degradation of command in favor of a popular census in the Marine Corps speaks volumes. If “command” is lost, the few and proud may become the fewer and shamed.

    The recent extensive government survey indicates the military, as a whole, would not be troubled serving next to gay and lesbian soldiers.

    I believe if we replaced the few loud troubled homophobes with willing proud gay Americans, our military would be stronger, larger and more effective.
    .

  4. Regarding gays in the military: it’s political posturing for cult votes from those who think God is hetero. Fools. We know God is all things: omni-present, omni-powerful, and omni-sexual, which, of course, means He embraces gun-totin’ queers.


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