There are two things George Bush’s military could do to boost the number of combat soldiers available for his endless wars without re-instituting the draft: allow gays to serve openly and allow women to fight.
The fact that both of these changes face strong opposition is not surprising. But the fact that the loudest voice opposing both changes issues from a single throat?
Issue One: Wounded Gay Veteran Wants to Serve Openly
An Army sergeant who was wounded in Iraq wants a chance to remain in the military as an openly gay soldier, a desire that’s bringing him into conflict with the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
Sgt. Robert Stout, 23, says he has not encountered trouble from fellow soldiers and would like to stay if not for the policy that permits gay men and women to serve only if they keep their sexual orientation a secret.
“I know a ton of gay men that would be more than willing to stay in the Army if they could just be open,” Stout said in an interview with The Associated Press. “But if we have to stay here and hide our lives all the time, it’s just not worth it.”
Issue One Designated Hater: Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness
Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, a conservative advocacy group that opposes gays serving in the military, said a better way to avoid the cost of replacing soldiers who are discharged for being gay is to make it very clear to people who enlist in the military, including Stout, that they are ineligible to serve if they are gay.
“I honor and respect his service to this country, but the fact that he’s wounded really doesn’t change the underlying fact. … He is not eligible to serve,” Donnelly said, adding that there are many reasons why people aren’t eligible to serve. “This is just one of them.”
Issue Two: Women in Combat.
Army Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester bolted from her Humvee, took cover behind a berm along the road and began firing at the swarm of insurgents ambushing a U.S. military convoy south of Baghdad.
“Bullets were flying everywhere,” said Hester, 23, of Bowling Green. “I could hear them pinging off the truck in back of me. I could hear them hitting the ground next to me. It was pretty crazy.”
For almost a half-hour, Hester and nine other Kentucky National Guard soldiers, including another woman, Spec. Ashley Pullen, fought off 40 to 50 attackers armed with assault rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. When the shooting ended, 26 insurgents lay dead and seven were wounded.
Military leaders “are certainly learning an awful lot from this about women, in general, as far as how they function in this type of environment,” [retired Navy captain and director of the Women in the Military project Lory] Manning said. “What they are learning is that … women can deal with all that stuff and deal with it very well.”
Issue Two Designated Hater: Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness
Among supporters of the ban on women in combat is the president of the Center for Military Readiness, a socially conservative advocacy group. The Army should reassess whether women should serve in units such as Hester’s 617th Military Police Company that can end up so close to the action, Elaine Donnelly said.
“I think there’s some military police roles that women can do and do well,” Donnelly said. “But when they start doing things very similar to what the infantry does, that, I think, is a whole different position.”
Personally, I would prefer if neither men nor women were placed in harm’s way. I don’t care if they are gay or straight, keep them out of combat if at all possible.
But to deny a gay man or woman the right to serve their country in the armed forces, to deny a woman the opportunity to serve in whatever role she chooses in equality with her male counterparts – that’s just wrong.