The easiest thing for me to do — and the course of action I tried — was to encourage myself to run from love. I also considered confiding in others, but given the horror stories of investigations and removals from duty, I decided against it. The thought of the shame of being interrogated and kicked out of the Service for something I wasn‘t even sure I was (a lesbian!), was too much to bear.
In the short three years that I was on active duty, I was Airborne and Air Assault (first female Distinguished Honor Graduate). During the First Gulf War, I volunteered to go to Iraq. Due to the needs of the Army, however, I remained in the Pacific – working in the 25th Infantry Division.
The values of physical work, integrity, service and team building made the Army an almost ideal place for me. I may have continued serving if I had felt more a part of the team.
I was well-liked and had friends, but not being able to share the biggest struggle in my life (and the biggest joy) with my peers and military friends prevented me from really forming the kind of friendships that one needs to feel as an integral part of a team.
It’s the warmth and support of a team that is truly needed for real “unit cohesion” among the officer corps and with the troops. It is necessary to continue to risk life and limb for each other.
In the end we risked everything not only for our country, but for our country personified in and by our buddies, members of that integral team. Not feeling that, I resigned my commission in September of 1991.
If I can be so bold, Mr. President: we need to help soldiers, and all people really, develop healthy understandings of what it is to be human, divorced from antiquated stereotypes about gender and gender roles.
“Macho” has no place in the modern professional Army; put downs and negative comparisons to the feminine are also hurtful to the Esprit de Corps of the Forces.
I know that you have based your Administration on creating a culture of respect for difference, of developing your version of “unit cohesion” based on the values of inclusion and diversity, not in spite of them.
This is the direction that the military needs to go, and it can start by repealing DADT now.
Former First Lieutenant Laura Slattery
United States Army
(right, in photo)
PREVIOUS LETTERS FROM THE FRONTLINE…
April 27 – Captain Joan Darrah
April 28 – LCpl Danny Hernandez
April 29 – An Active-Duty Military Chaplain
April 30 – Captain Rebecca H. Elliott
May 1 – Former Ssgt Anthony Loverde