by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Staff Writer
Gay rights advocate and 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' (DADT) repeal poster boy Army Lieutenant Dan Choi returned to drill duty last weekend for the first time since June 2009, when a military review board recommended he be discharged from military service for violating the DADT policy.
Choi reported that he felt welcomed back by his fellow guardsmen in his infantry unit. According to Choi, his commanding officer and unit has been highly supportive of him, even after he was recommended for discharge.
"Returning to my unit this past weekend for army training was many things: invigorating, exciting, a homecoming & but overall, a reminder that actions speak louder than words," Choi told SGN in a written statement.
Choi told SGN that the night before he reported for duty, he appeared on CBS, ABC, MSNBC, CNN, BBC, al-Jazeera, and other networks, commenting on the testimonies Admiral Mullen and Defense Secretary Gates gave before the Senate Armed Forces Committee.
"One debate, on Larry King Live, was particularly interesting," he said. "Anti-Gay Tony Perkins rolled out his same old fear tactics and insulted our military in front of Gen. Wesley Clark and the nation. Tony Perkins bet against our soldiers, predicting that if DADT were repealed so many soldiers would quit that we would need a draft."
"During last week's infantry training, we proved him wrong," Choi said.
"Do not call any of us quitters," Choi demanded. "Gay patriots are serving openly and honestly today."
Choi says that although he is back with his unit, drilling and preparing for a possible deployment, his discharge is still pending. "Any day I could still be fired under DADT," he said.
"The paperwork has been floating around the Pentagon very slowly," Choi said. "Usually people wait six or seven days for their discharge. Meanwhile, I'm waiting for months to hear back."
There has been confusion surrounding Choi's return to his National Guard unit.
"Dan is a member of the New York National Guard," explained Sue Fulton, communications director of Knights Out, and organization of LGBT West Point alumni. "This is not the same as active duty. National Guard units can be activated or called back to active duty. Officially, Dan's unit has not [been activated]."
Fulton says this is not a change in Army policy, nor "any action from higher headquarters that we are aware of."
"I would view it as a recognition by his unit that Dan's discharge may, after all, not be confirmed by the army," she said. "That said, Dan's unit welcomed him back and he spent a very full weekend practicing infantry tactics and lifesaving procedures with them. Dan has never lost the respect of his fellow soldiers - even as an out Gay man - and he will continue to do his job as an infantry officer for as long as he is allowed."
Even as Choi returned to drill duty, he has not stepped out of the role as America's top advocate for a DADT repeal.
"While some might praise the idea of 'better implementation' of the law, claiming that 'witch hunts,' 'jilted lovers,' or 'third-party outings' are the worst part of DADT, we know that the most dangerous and poisonous part of DADT is the fact that it forces soldiers to live a lie," Choi said. "We all have a responsibility to honor our soldiers and restore integrity by demanding the full repeal of military discrimination."
"Do not accept compromise," Choi said. "Our American values have been compromised for too long."
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