Last week, at the end of our Q&A for the Community Cinema screening of ASK NOT (a documentary by Johnny Symons that explores the effects of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy from 1993 to the present), I asked all the people in the room who’ve served in the U.S. military to stand so we can say “Thank you.”
Many in the room rose to their feet. I wasn’t sure who was retired, discharged, or on active duty, but it was a very poignant moment at the end of the event.
This week President Obama’s message focuses on Memorial Day, honoring those who have served in the U.S. military — the fallen, the remembered, the retired, and the men and women on active duty. “Thank you” also comes in quality and timely support to service members (i.e. benefits) when they have completed their tours and return home to civilian life — health, educational, career, and mental health services. The post 9-11 GI program.
But for the men and women who are not allowed to complete their service because of DADT, they won’t be getting their “thank you.” As one attendee in the room for ASK NOT described — a George Washington University student was forced to withdraw from school because the DADT policy required that he be discharged taking away all his educational benefits.
Until DADT is repealed by an act of Congress (which is the way the policy was set up in 1993, removing the executive authority of the President), we will continue to see the loss of vital, dedicated, skilled men and women who proudly serve to protect our nation.
So I say THANK YOU to Darren Manzella, discharged in 2008; to Alex Nicholson, discharged in 2002; and Jarrod Chlapowski who decided not to re-enlist in 2005.
You can meet Alex and Jarrod Sunday, May 31st at the 2nd Community Cinema screening of ASK NOT at Busboys and Poets (2021 14th Street, NW). The event starts at 5 PM. Visit www.communitycinema-dc.org for more information and to reserve – IT’S FREE!
For more information on efforts to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, visit The Service Members Legal Defense Network site – www.sldn.org; and Servicemembers United – www.servicemembersunited.org.
ASK NOT will air on local PBS stations starting June 16 on the Emmy Award winning “Independent Lens” series. Check local listings for dates and times.
And now, the President of the United States.