Democrats, grow a pair already & get this done. These men and women want to fight for their country, and no one should bar a citizen from being able to do that. Gays and lesbians have always served: it’s up to us, as citizens, to recognize their service and the diverse life experiences it comes with. Doing anything else is – I’m gonna say it – unpatriotic.
The dog tags also remind him of a fraternity roommate at the University of West Virginia. The young officer, who had recently married, was killed in Korea.
Phillips was a graduate student studying theater when he heard the news. His student status made him exempt from the draft, but, he said, “I thought I should do something.” He enlisted in the Army over the objections of his father back home in Elkins, W.Va. Having known since he was 17 that he was gay, the 22-year-old lied on the enlistment form, just as gays and lesbians still do today.
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The young =sergeant shared sandbag bunkers, tents and Quonset huts with other soldiers, but the lack of privacy “was not a problem.” He kept a photo of a “girlfriend” from college on his footlocker so no one would get suspicious. “I acted all my life,” he said of his pretense at being straight.
Only once did Phillips confide his secret, telling his company commander. “He reached over and took my hand and said, ‘It’s OK, buddy, this is between you and I.” It was a tremendous relief. He was straight, but he was understanding — there were people back then who were.”
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When Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told senators earlier this year that the military’s policy on gays “forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens,” Phillips could relate.
He recalled how when he came down with malaria in Korea, it was a black sergeant who carried him to a Jeep and took him to the hospital. The Korean War marked the first time black troops served alongside whites. For years, opponents of desegregation had argued that blacks would ruin morale and unit cohesion, a line of reasoning often heard now in the debate over gays in the military.
“If somebody’s protecting your back,” whether they are black or gay, Phillips learned in Korea, “who cares?”
More of Garrison Phillips’ story can be found here.