Don't Ask, Don't Tell | Military | News

Story from the Frontline of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell':
Captain Joan Darrah


"Stories from the Frontlines: Letters to President Barack Obama” is a new media campaign launched to underscore the urgent need for congressional action and presidential leadership at this critical point in the fight to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). 

Frontline_final02 As we approach the markup of the Defense Authorization bill in the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, SLDN and a coalition of voices supporting repeal, will share open letters to the President from a person impacted by this discriminatory law. We are urging the President to include repeal in the Administration’s defense budget recommendations, but also to voice his support as we work to muster the 15 critical votes needed on the Senate Armed Services Committee to include repeal. The Defense Authorization bill represents the best legislative vehicle to bring repeal to the president’s desk. It also was the same vehicle used to pass DADT in 1993. By working together, we can help build momentum to get the votes! We ask that you forward and post these personal stories.


April 27, 2010 Darrah2  

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

My name is Joan Darrah and I served in silence under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) for almost two decades. I share my personal story with you as we’re at a critical point in the fight to repeal this discriminatory law.

We urgently need your voice and leadership as we lobby the Armed Services Committees and the full House and Senate to end DADT this year.

I’m sure, as I do, you remember exactly where you were on September 11, 2001.

At 8:30 a.m. that day, I went to a meeting in the Pentagon. At 9:30 a.m., I left that meeting. At 9:37 a.m., American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon and destroyed the exact space I had left less than eight minutes earlier, killing seven of my colleagues.

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was a lesbian Navy captain who, at that time, had more than 28 years of dedicated military service. My partner, Lynne Kennedy, an openly gay reference librarian at the Library of Congress, and I had been together for more than 11 years. Each day, I went to work wondering if that would be the day I would be fired because someone had figured out I was gay.

Continued, AFTER THE JUMP...

In spite of that stress, somehow Lynne and I had learned to deal with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"; we had made the requisite sacrifices. I had pretended to be straight and had played the games most gays in the military are all too familiar with.

But after Sept. 11 our perspective changed dramatically. In the days and weeks that followed, I went to at least seven funerals and memorial services for shipmates who had been killed in the Pentagon attack. As the numbness began to wear off, it hit me how incredibly alone Lynne would have been had I been killed.

The military is known for how it pulls together and helps people; we talk of the "military family" which is a way of saying we always look after each other, especially in times of need. But none of that support would have been available for Lynne, because under "don't ask, don't tell," she couldn't exist.

In fact, had I been killed, Lynne would have been one of the last people to know, because nowhere in my paperwork or emergency contact information had I dared to list Lynne's name. This realization caused us both to stop and reassess exactly what was most important in our lives. During that process we realized that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was causing us to make a much bigger sacrifice than either of us had ever admitted.

Nine months later, in June 2002, I retired after 29 years in the U.S. Navy, an organization I will always love and respect.

Today, nine years after that fateful day at the Pentagon, I am now committed to doing everything I possibly can to get rid of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" so our military can finally be open to all qualified and motivated individuals who want to serve their country. This is the right step for our country, for our military, and for all gay men and lesbians.

As a veteran, and as a witness to the 14,000 men and women who have been discharged, I thank you for your bold words in your State of The Union address: “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do.”

I have great love and respect for our country, and I know that we will be a stronger and better country when we repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

With great respect,

Capt. Joan Darrah
United States Navy (Ret.)

April 26 - Major Mike Almy

Feed This post's comment feed


  1. I am ALWAYS so moved by the dedication & willingness of women to step-up for what's right...

    In my heart, I'm still hoping my Prez will be inspired by these people the way I have been.

    Posted by: stephen | Apr 27, 2010 10:03:36 AM

  2. Great letter.

    Posted by: Dan | Apr 27, 2010 10:09:32 AM

  3. That is such a powerful letter. Couldn't have been written any better...

    Posted by: pharmerandy | Apr 27, 2010 11:31:47 AM

  4. Great letter. Too bad it won't be read by Obama, or indeed, anyone that matters in DC.

    Posted by: James | Apr 27, 2010 12:29:27 PM

  5. Joan
    I served with you in VQ-2. In fact we ran together with others in the squadron. As I remember, you were in fact one of the fastest runners in the squadron and we ran as part of a VQ-2 cross-country team. I later came in contact with you at the Pentagon as I looked to being a Defense Attache in Spain, you helped me with those choices. I respected you as a professional, not knowing or caring about your personal life, and why should I know, you did not know about mine, it was a non-factor. While I thought it was unusual for a nice looking lady to be single, it was none of my business to think gay or just career driven female or eventual "old maid". I think if you remember me you can never say I did anything to prejudice my actions regardless of your status. Where I differ from you are these points:
    1. Military service is not a constitutional right. It is as you know a "privilege" to serve. If we want to amend the constitution that is one thing, but it is not a right to serve. At one time with the draft it was an "obligation" but we are now a voluntary force. The military pays 17,000 dollars for each recruit, why can't they hire who they want? The military discriminates a lot of people: overweight, drugs, criminal record, more than 30 years of service (when I served, hey I am still functional why could I have not served beyond 30?) etc etc. Anyone of the above mentioned could probably serve in some great capacity, especially if their lives were turned around in the case of a criminal record. However, the Military leaders reserves the right to build their force as they see fit. This is the right that needs to be addressed.
    2. I have heard your speeches about the talented gay/lesbians who are not being allowed to serve. I have heard you say that it is the Military's loss. However, that is from your perspective not from theirs! When you were on active duty can you honestly say you were hampered by not have a particular person with a skill set that only a gay or lesbian could have filled? I found you the ultimate professional, but there were many more like you. Your departure from the Navy (like mine) was like putting your hand in water, and taking it out, only a ripple remains. By your own argument the Navy had to have suffered when you left, I don't think you can make that claim. As you know the military's "needs" change from time to time, we are taking in overweight and physically challenged people that they never considered before. What is the difference? Simply it was the Military organization that made that determination, not the gay and lesbian society of America, simply because you feel like your "rights" are being stepped on. In fact the "talent" issue is only a red herring and you know it, and your speeches testify to it. It is all about you wanting to be open, it all about you wanting to be able to notify your lover in a loss (911), and nothing about offering skills the Military leaders say they want.
    Joan, we may come to a time where the Military decides yes the gay/lesbian community does give us a warfare advantage. I hope and you better hope that the reason truly is to make us a better warfighter, and not have to do with gays and lesbians having their feelings hurt from not serving the way the Military has asked. We are in the fight of our lives right now against islamic terrorists, we can't afford a social experiment. If you truly love the military and your campaign is not about worrying about being outed for 29 years, then instead of talking about feelings; address the specific warfighting shortfalls that can only be met by gays and lesbians. I am sure the person recommending bringing in overweight men and women had to do the same and contrast it with the risks. Okay I would like you to do the same: Demonstrate the overall advantage of having all the talented gays/lesbians serve and the impact it will make on military readiness, contrasted with risks. Then and only then will you have an argument that is based on something other than sex.
    Again, I enjoyed serving with you. Your military service is still admired by me, I am not a bigot or homophobe, I just am so very tired of everyone claiming rights they never had in the constitution.

    Posted by: Dan Wenceslao | Sep 10, 2010 3:07:37 PM

Post a comment


« «Russian PM Vladimir Putin: President Medvedev and I are Not Gay« «