Over forty years ago, a Pacific-WW II Marine, himself gay, once attempted to disabuse a young, pre-Army me of the traditional view of combat Marines. He said, “Listen, buddy boy, I can tell you about the Marines . . .” The subtext was clear and unsettling, although he never elaborated. Historian and WW II Pacific-combat Marine William Manchester recalled in Goodbye, Darkness the Marine caught in flagrante delicto with a fellow Marine, found guilty, and sentenced to a very long stretch in military prison.
There’s been homosexual behavior in the military since the American Revolution, largely exceptions to the rule and hidden. Modern-day vets know this, more or less, but never until now had to deal with it “up close and personal.” We’re beset with what to make of it all. For the Old Breed among us, there’s nothing to talk about, nothing to consider—period. It’s something “unheard of” back in the day.
It’s difficult to find reconciliation against the backdrop of a sibilant Barack Obama arguably “sissyfying” our once powerful and proud nation. There are no Hollywood Moments in combat, but this reality: Any team member engaged with an enemy won’t care whether the guy beside you, or the CO himself, cross-dresses while on weekend pass. You want the guy with you to cover your back, to fire his weapon for effect, to close with the enemy and kill him by whatever means. You want the gunship pilot to do the same with his missiles and Gatling gun. You expect the guy flying a Fast Mover to drop ordnance when and where it’s needed; you want the artillery guy to pull the lanyard and put those rounds exactly when and where they’re needed . . . . And so it would go.
In all the armed services and special groups, the gay soldier who decides to be “open” won’t have an easy time of it—particularly if he volunteers for, say, the SEALs, a scenario hard to envision. Many would feel his joining a heavy-duty combat team creates disparate, enormously conflicting images. Others might cite the gay individual’s very volunteering for such military service, which, in itself, should give pause. Why ever would a gay individual, with so-called “gay sensibilities,” volunteer for a job that can require stealthy killing? Clearly, only the gay individual can answer the question; but his volunteering signals he wants the job, knows what it will entail, and feels he’s up to doing it. It cannot be that he’s joining a combat unit to socialize with the boys.
If the gay soldier performs as well or better than his peers getting through the searing hell of SEAL training, or through Airborne training, advanced infantry training, aviation training, and he performs equally as well in combat, what can peers say? Indeed, who around this guy would step up and “get in his face” over his homosexuality?
Many of us, I suspect, are on the fence over the issue. If nothing else, it will all out in combat We may not like the order-of-the-day for any number of reasons, but now we’ll just have to wait and see how or whether gays “openly serving” compromises or reduces military effectiveness in the field, morale, and security throughout forward combat units and the support branches, in US Government agencies, and in the military’s “rear echelons”—where, my generation used to say, softly sit the REMFs (Rear Echelon Mother-F*****s).