Submitted by: LTC Vicki Hudson (Ret) USAR
I remember when a soldier would drive two hours away just to have a beer, where no one would recognize him.
I remember when before entering a bar in that town two hours away, a soldier would take her military ID and stash it hidden in the car.
I remember when after driving two hours or longer to get to the bar for a beer, the soldier would park down the road in a busy parking lot, never near the bar, never where someone would see the installation sticker on the windshield or see where the soldier was going.
I remember what it was like for a soldier to check a box on the medical history form and hope no one would ask for a verbal response.
I remember the choice a soldier would make to appear uneducated with third person pronouns instead of choosing a deliberate lie when using the opposite gender than was true when speaking about a loved one.
I remember when several soldiers of the same gender seen together off duty risked questioning about the nature of their relationships with each other.
I remember the fear a soldier would experience when it was time for a security clearance update and wonder what the neighbors would say when that investigator knocked on their door.
I remember the harassment and derision intensified when a soldier was deemed not enough of a girly girl soldier, or a he-man warrior by peers; and the isolation as the other who could never trust a buddy. Or be trusted.
I remember the pain of silence when a soldier heard battle buddies queer or lesbian or fag or dyke baiting.
I remember the betrayal a soldier experienced when leaders turned and walked away. Or joined in.
I remember the accusations, the rumor mongering, the pursuit to rout the soldier who was queer, or gay, or a fag, or a dyke disregarding that soldier’s dedication, sacrifice, courage, skill, example, or contribution to the mission’s success.
I remember a soldier when promoted with no family to pin on the new rank, just a friend alone in the back of the room.
I remember the fear and anxiety a soldier would feel the night before a patrol, wondering if wounded or killed, who would tell the soldier’s soul mate and beloved – since the name was on no official document or listing as a family member. Would they be told at all?
I remember a war without personal communication devices and weekly or monthly morale calls where a soldier was just one of many talking and the cryptic language a solider would carefully use with no privacy to say I love you to a “friend.”
I remember a soldier with a baby, struggling to find a way to register the child per regulation and caught with no way to explain how that baby became hers.
I remember a soldier taking command, with a “friend” watching, and no one to receive the yellow rose welcoming the new commander’s family, because that family didn’t exist.
I remember, because I was that soldier.
I remember before don’t ask, don’t tell was gone.