On Saturday, Sept. 30, crowds will gather on Duke University’s East Campus in Durham for NC Pridefest. At noon, before the annual Pride parade, there will be a rally with several speakers — including Chapel Hill City Councilman Mark Kleinschmidt, Dr. Janie Long of Duke University, Durham County Assistant City Attorney Sherri Rosenthal and former Air Force Sgt. Bruce Wyatt.
Former Air Force Sgt. Bruce Wyatt will talk about his experiences with the U.S. Military.
Wyatt was a serviceman with over 20 years of experience before he was discharged at Pope Air Force base in Spring Lake under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
“It was 13 months ago, Aug. 23 of last year,” Wyatt said in an interview with Q-Notes.
“I was 20 years old when I joined. I kind of got tired of hearing Dad say, ‘you need to go get a job’ and there was not much to be found in northeast Kentucky where I’m from. So I left home and joined the Air Force, which was a good move, since I discovered I love to travel. I didn’t know it at the time. I hadn’t been very many places.”
Wyatt spent six years on active duty, followed by 10 years on reserve duty and then went back to active duty in many different places across the states. Most of his time was spent in education training and management.
“I had been dating someone, a civilian living in Raleigh,” he said. “We had a good friendship going and were starting a relationship. He was a person who made himself out to be someone that he was totally not. He continually lied, was extremely deceitful. I told him, ‘I can be your acquaintance, but I can’t be your partner anymore.’ Once I did that, he actually fought me physically. He destroyed things in my home when he became violent after the breakup. I took him to court for the assault, but that’s another story to tell.
“Turns out he had stolen the recall roster from my wallet. A recall roster contains the phone numbers and names in my chain of command. After I kicked him out, he began calling people.
“I didn’t know what was going on, I just went to work like normal with that guy out of my life, I thought.
About four months later, on Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, 2004, they called me into the legal office. They told me that they had this evidence against me indicating that I’m homosexual and they wanted to know if it was true. And I said, ‘Yes it is true. I am homosexual. My military career has been outstanding. This hasn’t affected my career at all.’
“They said, ‘Well, you will be discharged,’ because I admitted it. But they did tell me that if I didn’t tell them the truth, they would be digging deeper, they would find out the truth and then they would take appropriate action which would probably be prosecution and jail time.”
Wyatt was given an honorable discharge, but lost his pension and his medical benefits. “My children lost their medical benefits as well,” he said. “I’m not allowed on base anymore.
“Because I had the number of years in the service that I had, I was entitled to a board hearing. My board hearing date was coming up, but my treatment on the base at the time — because of everybody knowing about me — was not very pleasant. I was required to have an escort to all the discharge appointments: medical, anything dealing with paperwork, anywhere I went on base I had to have an escort. And I outranked that escort, so that was kind of demeaning. I chose to go ahead and waive the board hearing.
“Once I did that, they set a discharge date. They completed all the discharge paperwork, offered me a severance package — $24,000 for 21 years worth of service, six months worth of medical and base privileges. The severance package was not paid out until six months later. I actually had to fight for that, argue with the finance department to get paid. I finally got it Feb. 2006.”