The Obama administration came into office promising to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, but for political reasons they took a verrrrrry slooooooow approach to actually doing it. As a political matter, this strategy has been a resounding success. But it does mean that a number of gay and lesbian soldiers found themselves being dismissed who could have been saved by a speedier policy.
Amanda Terkel did an interview with Dustin White, a former member of the New Jersey National Guard, who will hopefully be one of the last people to see his military career cut short in this manner:
“But it’s still always in the back of my mind when I apply for a job,” said White. “I’m always wondering whether they’re going to find my record and what it’s going to say. What is it going to make them think about me as a person? I did everything that I had to do in the military. I always did my job, supported other soldiers, and I performed my duties to the best of my ability. I never got in trouble, never had any disciplinary actions taken against me. If that general discharge that I received makes people think less of me in any way, it really is a shame, because I don’t think I did anything to deserve that.”
Being discharged also affected White financially. After he left the service, he received a letter from the military demanding that he pay back $8,000, the unearned portion of his enlistment bonus.
One of the occupational hazards of politicians and their staff is, I think, a tendency to forget that this stuff isn’t just a game. There’s a real human price to be paid for bad policy, and it doesn’t go away even if the right side “wins” in the end.