SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2012       Personal Memory Ethnographies


Serving Justice?

I had just graduated from high school and was preparing to enter United States Marine Corps boot camp with a close friend of mine. I had already completed all the pre-requirements in order to ship out however, He decided to join me in the Marines. During the enlistment process in which my friend received exemplary marks in physical and mental condition, and was preparing to sign his contract to ship out to Boot Camp, he and I were discussing some private matters in the recruitment office alone. During our discussion, one could feel his anxiety. He confided in me that he was a homosexual & was horribly concerned that his lifestyle would affect his ability to join the armed forces. He had withheld this information during his enlistment process in an effort to prevent any discrimination or maltreatment towards him. Unfortunately, one of the recruiters was in an adjacent office and overheard our conversation.

A few days later, my friend came to me in despair saying that his enlistment had been denied due to the recruiter writing a malicious comment on his contract, stating in detail the fact that he was a homosexual. I don't agree with this. There is a major issue with this kid being a homosexual, and I will not just sit idly by and allow him to join my Marine Corps. God knows I wouldn't want him watching my back in a firefight. He was not being allowed to serve his country due to the fact that he was gay.

Immediately I returned to the recruiting office and demanded that the recruiter remove his comment on his contract and allow him to serve. The recruiter replied by saying verbatim, I won't do that. I don’t think it's right that your friend is a homosexual and wants to join the Marines. All I can say is that I don’t want him watching my back because he is a queer. I could feel the disdain this Marine had toward homosexuals serving in the military, it was almost as if this man believed he was a superior person than my friend, not because he was a Marine, but because he wasn't a “fag”. Here this man was supposed to be a vessel for young men and women to pursue serving their country, and he was bashing and putting my friend down solely because he prefers to be with a man than a woman. The decision to join the military is a heavy enough burden without having someone put you down because of the way you choose to live your life. I found this bigoted view by the Marine recruiter completely appalling, and knew I had to do something about it because he would never have fought this man because of how good natured of a person he is. The Marines represented a symbol of what is right and just in this world to me, the feeling I get when I look upon a marine in his perfectly squared away uniform, or the see Marine Corps flag drifting in the wind next to our Nations flag. Marines exist to defend those who cannot defend themselves, and I would not stand idly by and allow a friend I care about being denied his right to become a marine simply because one bigoted recruiter has an issue with his sexual preference.

After I told my friend and his family about the results of my return visit to the recruiter, his father and I decided to research into an attorney to assist my friend. We spent over six weeks trying to locate an attorney to defend his case and fight for him to enlist into the Marines. We finally came across a lawyer who was willing to take the case. He immediately jumped into the case to see what kind of loopholes we could find or what rules and regulations the recruiter had broken. The recruiter has said the same thing to the attorney, I will not rebuke my negative recommendation, whether you threaten me or not. It isn't right to allow him to join and I'll be damned if he puts on a uniform while I am still in this office. After another month of preparing the case, we finally brought the case before a military tribunal in an effort to right this injustice.

It took two entire days to give our defense for my friend and plead with the court to allow him to join the Marine Corps and serve his country, regardless of his sexual orientation. The recruiter stated that we were merely slandering his career in this pointless assault, and he would not back down because he believed that in his heart, he was justified to deny his enlistment, he stated, I will take this as far as need be to prevent someone who is not worthy to serve in our beloved Corps. Simply put, he isn't good enough. We showed in out case that there is not a difference in true ability between gay and straight men and pleaded that he was more than capable to meet the things that would be required of him in the Marines. After we presented our case in it's entirety, the council debated for a long time. They returned with the decision that due to the fact that he “technically” withheld information he was ineligible to enlist, under a clause in the United States Armed Forces “Don't ask, don't tell” policy. This was a technicality that prevented him from enlisting. It wasn't that the tribunal believed the recruiters side of things, it was their way of sweeping the situation under the rug so they didn't have to make a decision that would anger either the recruiter and other marines, or set the gay community against the military.

Six years of fighting with this system have passed, and with the “Don't ask, don't tell” Policy has been officially repealed, my friend is yet again attempting to enlist to serve in the Marines, however, it will be a long process because he had already been denied admission by a Tribunal. To this day I am still trying to aid my close friend in achieving his dream: to serve his country and join the rank of the Marine Corps. But this is an issue that still bothers me. Just because he is a homosexual, he was deemed unworthy to serve his country, a right that every American should have.

Since 1996 or so, our country has made great leaps toward equality between straight and gay communities in many aspects. A massive conference took place in Washington D.C. to eliminate discrimination in the workplace. The state of Vermont and several other states approved the creation of same-sex unions. This allows gay & lesbian couples to have the same benefits that previously were exclusive to straight couples. And in 2010, the armed forces “Don't ask, don't tell” policy was completely revoked. But this isn't enough. Gay couples are still being denied the right to join themselves to each other in more than half of the states in the country, including Arizona. They are being passed on jobs, promotions and other benefits that are being given to others simply because those people are not homosexuals or are deemed to be “living the correct lifestyle”. And most importantly in this case, homosexuals are still being treated unfairly, both while serving in the armed forces, or attempting to do so. My friend is among the latter.

Every American has the same rights laid out in our Constitution: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, right to bear arms, the right to Due Process, the right to vote and the right to a fair trial, among others. But my friend, and countless others, have still been cast aside in numerous ways in an effort to preserve “the natural way of life”, which is complete hogwash. As an American, he has the right to defend his country, and should not be treated differently or chosen over/under someone else simply because he prefers a man over a woman. Who a man chooses to be with should not be reflective upon who he is as a person, human being or especially an American. And until we stand together and unite toward this common goal, there will always be those out there in the world, who are maltreated and thrown aside because they are different. And if we do not help them fight for their rights to enjoy all the freedoms that all other Americans enjoy, or stand up and defend the country they love, then who will?

Return to Personal Memory Ethnographies homepage