I give a damn. However, I am forced to give a damn quietly.
I a currently a member of the United States Army National Guard, and I have been serving since 2004. I have worked in different jobs that the Guard has seen fit to train me in. I was mobilized in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina tore through Louisiana to help my fellow Americans. I was deployed in 2009 to Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom. I was asked to re-enlist after satisfactory service after my initial six year contract. I also happen to be a homosexual.
I wish I could share more of myself in this story, but like many other men and women who serve quietly and in hiding in the military I cannot. I joined the armed forces for many reasons when I was much younger, and perhaps a lot more naive – but even then I know who and what was. Looking back, some of those reasons were foolish and wildly misplaced, but the most important ones were not. I never had a brother, or a male figure to look up to, but when I joined the military I found myself becoming a part of the nation’s largest fraternity, perhaps the world’s, and I found myself finally having brothers. And for a while it was good, and I was very happy.
Then I came back home from Katrina and at the college that I attended I was asked to speak at a GLBT event, because in my civilian life I had been mostly out. I will say that it lapsed my mind to think the event would of course be covered by the college’s newspaper, but it did not lapse the mind of the unit I was with at the time. And almost as suddenly as I had been held in the arms of my brotherhood, I had found myself being let go. Miraculously, to avoid a scandal I was offered a transfer – the new unit of course being fully disclosed as to the details of my personal life.
So, it was on the eve of an upcoming deployment, a time where units bond the most, I found myself having to prove my worth as a soldier, a professional, even as man to the people whom I would be placing my life in their hands. To say the process was painful is to grossly simplify what was one of the most trying times in my life; but I was still serving, I had not been kicked out. Also, to say I was the only one who suffered would be belittle the concern and worry family and friends felt for me. But I persevered, and I was able to prove myself and my worth to my soldiers I ended up deploying with.
Soldiers later on accepted me for who I was, and treated me like a brother once more. Though, that was not the case with everyone. I was still forced to hide who I was, what I thought, my opinions and my beliefs most of the time, and I still have to. Still during that time, and even now as I continue to serve, I have been able to change some minds and some attitudes regarding gays in the military. I have been able to show how equally able, and motivated, and willing I am to serve my country. And while I may not be able to hold up a sign in front of the White House, or march down the street in rally for fear of being recognize by those in the service that would see me out of the armed forces, I still give a damn.
I am a soldier and I am homosexual. I am also a son, a brother, a friend, a quiet activist, and an American. And I give a damn, quiet or not so quiet, about the rights I deserve. Rights we all deserve equally. And I most definitely and vehemently give a damn when fellow Americans I swore to protect feel like suicide is the only means of dealing with those individuals that cannot put ignorance and their own prejudices aside bully, and belittle, and hurt them. Oh, I give a damn alright, I just hate I can’t give a damn loud enough to stop this. So please give a damn too, and add your voice to mine in stopping this hatred.
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