LGBT veterans and DADT: True stories from I'm from Driftwood

In honor of Veteran's Day, true stories of military life and Don't Ask Don't Tell from I'm from Driftwood.

And don't forget that the The I'm From Driftwood Story Tour is in Alaska right now, and will be holding a fundraiser tonight from 7:00 to 9:00 PM at Mad Myrna's in Anchorage. Even if you can't make it, you can submit your own true story and/or donate to I'm from Driftwood to assist in IFD's efforts to help LGBT youth realize they’re not alone.

These are story excerpts; follow the links to read each story in full.

Matt R. from Spring, Texas:

I yelled at my Soldiers to return fire and stepped out of my cover to shoot back. We drove them away with a hail of bullets and somehow, we all managed to make it out without a scratch.... I received an Army Commendation Medal with Valor and a Bronze Star Medal for what I did in Iraq. Externally, I was brave. A hero. Internally, I was a coward. Hidden in the closet.
Matt R. from Colorado Springs, Colorado:
Nick and I sat as close together as we could without raising any eyebrows, chain smoking Marlboro Reds in silence. Occassionally he and I made eye contact and mouthed the words, “I love you,” to each other, after checking for witnesses. Then we went back to our cigarettes and silence. On the outside I showed no emotion, I was just a friend here to see him off because no one from his family made it. I wore sunglasses so no one could look at my swollen, red eyes.... I wanted to tell him just one more time in person, “Come back to me. In one piece. I’ll be here, while you’re there, waiting… For you.” Instead, I smoked and silently mouthed I love you while I held back the tears that I’m not allowed to show the world.
Anonymous from Dearborn, Michigan:
My lieutenant, a five-foot-two Latina, was scaring the crap out of all of us. Between her rank and how she was screaming now, we were all being overpowered.

“If you have anything – anything – you want to say to somebody about being of a certain sexual orientation, about being a certain race, religion, gender – I don’t care. If you want to say it – say it to me. Apparently we have someone who likes writing hate mail to shipmates. Whoever you are, know that I will find you and you will be punished. So let this be a lesson to all of you here: if you want to tell a shipmate to Die, Fag, say it to my face first. Because guess what - you’re going to be admitting it to me at Captain’s Mast soon enough.”...

Sometimes, the Navy really does stand for excellence and the fair treatment of all. When it does, it’s because sailors are standing with it.

Ryan B. from Kewanee, Illinois:
I don’t think it’s okay for the gay community to be limited in how open they are in the military, but I do think that, as an unimportant factor in this case, it makes sense not to worry about it. What’s really important is personal development, the reason why I’ve chosen to follow this path in my life, serving as a member of the U.S. Marine Core as a gay teenager.
Hubert Dorsett from Bolger, Texas:
While in Destroyer School at Newport, I met the first man I would love and have a relationship with. He was a playwright from New York City, living near Provincetown, MA, and because of my feelings for him and because I had been the subject of several investigations by Naval Investigative Service, I decided to end my Navy career and resign my commission. In doing so I lost the first man I loved and I gave up a career that I loved, because I really did (and still do) love the Navy and all that it stood for, except of course for the policy on homosexuals.
Peter Yacobellis from New Hyde Park, New York:
This loose acceptance of a possibility that I could be “cured” was probably one of many reasons I pursued a career in the military. I suppose I hoped that the strictly heterosexual environment would “help”. I soon realized, being in an all-male unit, that my same-sex attraction was very real and not going to go away. I knew that I could easily comply with rules against engaging in intimacy that exist for everyone in basic training. But what was becoming clearer was what life would be like after basic training. I realized that after training, other airmen would be allowed to have intimate relationships and that I wouldn’t be able to have one with another male.
Zackariah Gonzales from Boise, Idaho:
It took three years of legal and administrative action, thousands of pages of documents, research and emails and a trip to Washington D.C. before the United States Coast Guard Discharge Review Board came to a final ruling. In 5-0 decision they ruled that the Command had violated provisions of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and did not follow Coast Guard policy on discharge proceedings, my rights under the Uniform Code of Military Justice were violated, I was not afforded adequate legal representation and my discharge was illegal. They ordered that my discharge reason be changed from “homosexual conduct” to “general reasons” they also ordered that I be allowed to reenlist if I choose. The Commandant of the Coast Guard overruled my reinstatement, but let the rest of the decision stand.

My name is Zackariah Gonzales, I am from Boise, Idaho, I was fired for being gay from the U.S. Armed Forces and I will not stop telling my story until the ban is lifted.

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