WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of Defense dismissed 612 service members under the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel, Pentagon officials confirmed in March. The number of troops dismissed last year is less than half the total number of discharges in the fiscal year preceding the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Pentagon officials released the data following remarks by Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, supporting the ban and referring to lesbian and gay personnel as “immoral.”
Chaplain Col. Paul W. Dodd (left) and Captain Robert Michael Rankin are among the military officers who came out in an Advocate interview.
“The Pentagon’s data shines a bright light on the hypocrisy of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” said C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). “When military leaders need the talent, skills and qualifications of gay personnel, dismissals decline.
“Then, during peacetime, the dismissal rate climbs again. The Pentagon’s own data shows that, during times of war, when unit cohesion is most important, fewer gay troops are dismissed. In fact, lesbian and gay Americans are making important contributions to our national security. The ban on their service, and not their service itself, is what erodes cohesion most.”
During fiscal year 2005, the Pentagon dismissed 742 service members. The 612 men and women dismissed this past year represent the fewest annual discharges since the law’s enactment. The Pentagon provided no comment on the data upon its release. A service-specific breakdown of dismissals was not made available by Pentagon officials, nor was a breakdown of specialists dismissed under the law made public.
“Especially today, when the military faces well-documented recruiting and retention woes, the loss of even one skilled service member is one too many,” said Osburn. “The 612 men and women fired certainly include troops with valuable skills. The loss of those personnel is disgraceful, and Congress should repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ once and for all.”
In another military development in early April, a group of seven high-ranking military veterans publicly acknowledged their sexual orientation in an issue of The Advocate.
The seven are the largest number of senior officers to come out publicly as lesbian or gay at one time. They came out in response to Pace’s remarks.
Among the individuals profiled in the Advocate article are Stewart Bornhoft, Army (Ret.); Capt. Joan E. Darrah, Navy (Ret.); Capt. Robert D. Dockendorff, Naval Reserve (Ret.); Chaplain Col. Paul W. Dodd, Army (Ret.); Capt. Sandra Geiselman, Naval Reserve (Ret.); Col. E. A. Leonard, Army (Ret.); and Capt. Robert Michael Rankin, Navy (Ret.).
“Servicemembers Legal Defense Network salutes the service, courage and patriotism of each of these seven officers,” said Osburn. “They are proof that lesbian, gay and bisexual service members not only serve their country, but serve their country well, regardless of sexual orientation. It is time to thank all our men and women in uniform for their service to our nation. It is time to lift the ban.”
Each of the highly-decorated officers has served at least 20 years; several have served 30 years or more. They have earned numerous awards, honors and commendations during their careers. Four served in the Vietnam War. They have served as company commanders, helicopter pilots, medical officers, commanding officers, psychologists, chaplains, combat engineers, platoon leaders, infantry officers, supply corps officers and intelligence officers.