Friday, November 09, 2007

Veteran's Day - 2007

I am a vet. A wartime era vet (VietNam). I did not see combat, but I took my chances along with everybody else. I didn't run off to Canada, although I could've, and with the blessings of E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co. where I was employed at the time I was drafted. They offered me a transfer to DuPont of Canada, if I'd chosen to do so. I declined.

I didn't get some rich relative (of which I have none) to "buy me" a place in the National Guard or the reserves.

I didn't run. I got drafted. I enlisted in the Navy instead. I was on active duty from 1968 to 1972. I climbed the corporate ranks of the military, too. I went from E-nothing to E-5 in 2 years and change (that's the equivalent of a Sergeant in the other services). My quarterly ratings were always in the top 5 percentile. I was Sailor of the Month and Sailor of the Quarter in my divisions at the Naval Air Test Center and I graduated first in my class in Aviation Electronics School. When my enlistment was nearing it's end an unending string of Chief Petty Officers and Officer/Pilots walked the deck with me, trying to convince me to re-enlist.

In short, I was a model sailor and a valuable military asset.

There was only one, teensy thing wrong with me as far as the government was concerned. I was a homosexual. They didn't know that, of course. But I did. I endured 4 years of listening to derogatory comments about queers and living in fear of "being found out" at any time. But I kept my secret because I had goals ... to fulfill my obligation to the nation and to collect my hard-earned VA benefits once my enlistment was up.

Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed, finally, a bill outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. They dropped the trannies in order to "git'er done." I hate politics, even as I understand the necessity for it. Both sides must come away feeling as though they have something to show for it.

So the poor trannies got thrown under the bus. As someone who has been thrown under the bus any number of times, I totally understand how they must feel today.

At any rate, the bill is progress. We live in an imperfect nation with imperfect leaders who govern imperfectly.

So this Veteran's Day (Sunday) I intend to keep in mind two heavily put-upon underclasses in this nation of ours. The closeted men and women who proudly wear the uniforms of our armed forces and our transexual citizens whose only crime was to feel compelled to heed Shakespeare's admonition to "thine own self be true."

I am truer to myself today than I have ever been in my entire life. And yet, there is much work remaining to be done. And that goes for the country, too.

Peace, everyone.

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