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

Army Wants $2500 Payback from Dan Choi Because He Was Discharged, for Being Gay

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He's not paying it.

An open letter to Obama from Lt. Dan Choi, via email and Twitter:

Dear Mr. President:

Today I received a $2,500 bill from your Defense Department Finance and Debt Services. Specifically, you claim payment for "the unearned portion" of my Army contract. Six months after my discharge under the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy I have tried to move forward with my life, and I was inspired by your clarion calls for our progress as one nation towards a more just society. I have served my country in combat and I have tried to live my life by the values I learned at West Point in continued service to our nation.  To move forward in my own life I have finally sought treatment for Combat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Military Sexual Trauma (MST), Insomnia, and Depressive Disorder from the Veterans Affairs Department. But I still find myself on a domestic battlefield for basic dignity as an American citizen. I know I am not alone in this fight because of the desperate cries for help I get from discharged, unemployed, discriminated, and suicidal veterans. I have felt all of their same pains personally. Today I also witness the disgrace of a country that perpetually discovers methods to punish its own citizens for taking a moral stand.

By flagrantly and repeatedly violating an immoral law, I have flagrantly and repeatedly saluted the honor of America's promise. At West Point, when we recited the Cadet Prayer we reminded ourselves "always to choose the harder right over the easier wrong." It would be easy to pay the $2500 bill and be swiftly done with this diseased chapter of my life, where I sinfully deceived and tolerated self-hatred under Don't Ask Don't Tell.  Many thousands have wrestled with their responsibilities and expedient solutions when confronted with issues of this magnitude. I understand you also wrestle with issues of our equality. But I choose to cease wrestling, to cease the excuses, to cease the philosophical grandstanding and ethical gymnastics of political expediency in the face of moral duty. My obligations to take a stand, knowing all the continued consequences of my violations, are clear.

I refuse to pay your claim. 


Dan Choi

Former Army First Lieutenant

West Point Class of 2003

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  1. Amen Dan!! You are correct and thank you for your continued service to what is right.

    Posted by: Rann | Jan 27, 2011 10:10:53 AM


    Beautifully written.

    People can say what they want about Dan but I, as a gay man and a combat veteran, salute him as a hero.

    Posted by: TampaZeke | Jan 27, 2011 10:14:45 AM

  3. shouldn't his personal address be blacked out?

    Posted by: m | Jan 27, 2011 10:15:17 AM

  4. "Tried to move forward..." my ass. I salute his service, but if he's moving forward, it's at a snails pace.

    Posted by: JNJ | Jan 27, 2011 10:18:18 AM

  5. YOU GO DAN!

    Posted by: mak | Jan 27, 2011 10:18:46 AM

  6. This is a really disrespectful letter to the President. Its an unjust claim, but its not like Obama sat their and personally decided to fine Choi. Take it up with the Department of Defense.

    Choi needs to realize that not everything in life comes on a silver platter, and this isn't the first time a mistake or unjust claim was made by the government bureaucracy. Listing your grievances and personal medical issues is irrelevant.

    This letter is classless and lowers Choi.

    Posted by: Damen | Jan 27, 2011 10:29:15 AM

  7. @JNJ,

    "I salute his service..." my ass. Your salute coupled by an insult means doodle-crap. This is the kind of shitty, punitive treatment gay service members receive from our government and your comments aren't helping. Why don't you foot his $2,500 bill so he can finally move forward?

    Posted by: Adrian | Jan 27, 2011 10:33:28 AM

  8. @Damen: "Disrespectful to the President"?? Are you kidding me? Why are you on this blog? You're abviously some nut-job who's had his head in his ass for the past several years. The President has disrespected us! He promised equality. He lied. Either stand with us or leave.

    Posted by: Wayne | Jan 27, 2011 10:42:02 AM

  9. He is a hero -- I wish there were more like Choi.

    Posted by: bob | Jan 27, 2011 10:44:25 AM

  10. Either stand with us or leave.

    If standing up with you means bitching about sh*t that has already been accomplished and participating in that irrational self-centered gay "woe is me" behavior, I'll pass.

    Grow up. Move on and look forward, and fight the new battles.

    Posted by: Damen | Jan 27, 2011 10:52:21 AM

  11. Dan Choi is a true American hero and a true Gay American hero. Those trashing him here have their heads up their self-hating GOP asses.

    Posted by: ant | Jan 27, 2011 10:54:55 AM

  12. All I'm saying is that Obama personally had nothing to do with this debt collection, and that his letter meanders into irrelevant grievances and claims. It should be addressed to the Department of Defense, and written more professionally and succinctly. This is not a personal attack on his homosexuality, and I'm sure this letter goes out to everyone who has been discharged and continued to receive compensation. Choi is behaving like he is the target of some conspiracy and is erring by reacting in this manner.

    Choi is not some sort of martyr that everyone should follow every word.

    Posted by: Damen | Jan 27, 2011 11:01:09 AM

  13. "I choose to take a stand and not pay what I owe." Morally courageous? Whine whine whine

    Posted by: Brent Z | Jan 27, 2011 11:02:15 AM

  14. Should we really get into a tizzy when we don't know ALL the facts? Isn't this the same guy who chained himself, along with others, to the White House fence in full military uniform? Did you know that one of those "others" was impersonating a military person? I don't want liars representing me.

    Posted by: Brad | Jan 27, 2011 11:06:36 AM

  15. @Damen

    How did you find your way onto this site. Lt. Choi has worked tirelessly, at times to the detriment of his health, to ensure that President Obama followed through on his promise to us. Some say "but that was just a campaign promise...we know that they all just say stuff to get elected," but I think we held Obama to a higher standard. He told us: YES WE CAN! There was no "*" with a disclaimer, he made us believe in him. After 8 years of more Bush we desperately needed someone to believe in!

    Sadly, Obama is but a mere mortal. Change has been slow, and he's frustrated us at times, but I honestly believe that he's doing a great job, but I also think he needs a gentle nudge every now and then. Hence, Dan's letter to him. Why send a letter the DOD? They sent out the ridiculous request for repayment, so just imagine how long it would take to go through the "proper channels"! Go straight to the top, that's what Dan did. Kudos to Mr. Choi!

    Btw Damon, I hear that Chris Barron is looking for a new BFF. I could hook you up. I think you two would really hit it off.

    Posted by: Gigi | Jan 27, 2011 11:07:59 AM

  16. @Damen. Agreed.

    Posted by: Robert | Jan 27, 2011 11:15:09 AM

  17. Chris Barron? GOP? I've been a Democrat from years, still am.

    I agree that Dan Choi has been a strong tireless advocate, but that doesnt mean we cant call him out on things we perceive are wrong. I would've much preferred him chaining himself to Mitch McConnell's and John McCain's office door than the White House fence in 2010.

    The White House receives hundreds, if not thousands of letters each day. If you think this letter was going to get lost in the confusion of the DoD, wait until the White House deals with this. If you receive a wrong charge on your credit card statement, do you immediately send a letter to the CEO of Visa asking for a correction? No, you go through the proper channels. This is grandstanding at its finest, nothing more.

    DADT has been repealed, and implementation is underway. There is no need for dramatic overtures like this.

    Finally, I have been a daily reader of Towleroad since 2005 and have commented on numerous occasions. There is always plenty of space and room for debate here.

    Posted by: Damen | Jan 27, 2011 11:22:05 AM

  18. Wow! The spineless, self-hating gays showed up here again. You know who you are. You'll eventually reap from the fruit of Choi's bravery and sacrifices. You don't deserve any of it, yet you spit on his honor. Far be it for me to wish misfortune upon you, but when karma catches up, don't whine, okay?

    The letter may be overboard, but do you actually believe that writing to the DoD will do any good? How naive.

    And Choi's not a martyr. He's not perfect. He's simply an outspoken victim of institutionalized homophobia like most of us. But he was one of the few who fought back. You only wish you had half his guts to back up your sheltered intellect.

    Posted by: Adrian | Jan 27, 2011 11:24:37 AM

  19. Of course his letter should go to the President. Why mess around with DOD when they report to him. The "oh, I'm sure everyone got one" crowd misses the point. Take action, make change, make it visible.

    Posted by: Mrs. Sippi | Jan 27, 2011 11:28:56 AM

  20. @Damen, I hate to be the one to give you a basic civics lesson but Dan DID take his grievance to the Department of Defense. He took it to the HEAD of the Department of Defense, the PRESIDENT.

    President Truman had a plaque on his desk that read, "The buck stops here". On issues of DADT, the buck ultimately stops with the Commander in Chief. Regardless of Obama's work to end DADT Choi's letter to him protesting this absurd billing from his Department of Defense, was entirely appropriate.

    Posted by: TampaZeke | Jan 27, 2011 11:33:51 AM

  21. Or Tampa, come on, you know these guy LOVES attention.

    Adrian et al, get a grip you looser. Choi fought because it concerned HIM as a blood thirsty soldier who wants to continue Americas imperialism. Yeah, what a hero, he took part in making Iraq in even worse state but hey, who cares right?

    That self righteous liar will only be a hero when I see him physically helping young gay kids who are being bullied, killed or thrown out of the streets effectively. As well as peoples rights.


    Posted by: Rowan | Jan 27, 2011 11:54:33 AM

  22. I often avoid the comments on this site because invariably there are comments denigrating whatever gay person or positive action is being featured. If only we were so lucky that the commenters were all trolls from evangelical churches but I figure they are gay because I've known so many gay people who haven't a kind word to say about anyone and ever strive to bring down those who do good work. It's a pity. But it's human, I suppose.

    I would love to get to know Mr Choi and I praise him for all he has done. The obliviousness with which the Obama administration usually treats gay people is their usual kindness. Once in awhile they do something explicitly pro-gay, which is always appreciated, but frequently they do things that are outright mean, this being one of those.

    Posted by: Glenn I | Jan 27, 2011 12:23:08 PM

  23. is it just me or is this letter completely over-the-top?

    Yes, he should deny payment. Yes, it's an insult. Yes, it is worthy of publication.

    But, damn . . . . this is just weird.


    Posted by: tom | Jan 27, 2011 12:25:08 PM

  24. Rowan, you have a hard time understanding people who take orders and people who give them, don't you?

    Posted by: Bobby | Jan 27, 2011 12:30:59 PM

  25. I really only care if Dan Choi can not pay this. If he can pay it, then stop writing letters to the press... er I mean president, this is not a DADT matter, its bureaucratic fallout and doesn't need press.

    These things weaken your image Dan Choi. If you want to be some kind of Gay Rights leader you are going to have to have a plan, you need to run for office.

    All that said, I don't care about Dan at all, where is Victor Fehrenbach?

    Posted by: Fenrox | Jan 27, 2011 12:36:01 PM

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