Story #3 is from a former Marine Corps at Texas A&M. This is his story:
I didn’t grow up with much, but values were instilled in me at a young age have been the guiding light for every decision that I have made. I firmly believe that it is those principles that compelled me to eventually join the Marine Corps. When I was seventeen, I decided to meet with a recruiter and quite honestly he couldn’t have been more disgusted with me. I know this, only because he told me. I was not athletic. At 5 feet 2 inches I weighed a mere 85 pounds, and was able to complete one complete pull-up. One.
Despite lacking in athleticism, my recruiter, committed to his efforts to helping me become a good Marine. He motivated me, called me his “prodigy’, and before long I was in love with the Corps. I learned about Texas A&M and their Corps of Cadets. I joined the Corps, was part of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band, and was even Commanding Officer of my outfit during my senior year. To say that I was in love with Texas A&M would be an understatement. In fact, I never wanted to leave.
As college went on, I became more and more aware of my sexuality. I talked to a few close friends along the way, but still considered myself “in the closet” as I came to terms with the fact that I may be gay. This fact played a small part of my decision making when I decided after my junior year that I still wanted to join the Marines. I had an idea of what “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was, but my aspirations and hard work meant more to me at the time than the struggle of understanding my sexuality. At twenty years old, like many young adults gay and straight, I just wasn’t sure about who I was. Years later, I think I am still figuring it out, but the difference now is, I know that I am gay.
After three years of the Corps at A&M, I was in excellent shape and never once faltered. Even during the 10 mile hikes, with 80 pound packs on my back, I stayed as close to the front as possible. I was enjoying college, enjoying the Marine Corps and I had no complaints.
However, shortly after, things began to take a turn for the worse. It started when I went out with some friends to a local bar. I was around a lot of people, a few who knew I was gay, and some who didn’t. The fact that I was gay was brought up in conversation and was at first shrugged off. Some other Marines began heckling and started making inappropriate comments towards me. It became aggressive. The days that followed involved me worrying that the Marines at the bar would tell my command chain about my sexual orientation. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” forced me into isolation and into a point in my life where I thought I couldn’t trust anyone.
After a few weeks I reluctantly talked to a Corporal from my unit, and E-4 who I felt comfortable around. I told him what had happened and consequently told him that I was gay. He told my Sergeant the story and surprisingly, they calmed me, reassured me and told me it was not a big deal. To them, the only thing that mattered was that I get to the unit in Waco for the weekend drill. I did as instructed only to find out that my story had spread and reached my 1st Sergeant and Commanding Officer. The two Marines I had confided in were asked to write written statements and they complied. This began a ten month investigation.
When I walked in to my 1st Sergeant’s office that day the first thing he asked me was, “Are you gay?” I stood there in what was immediately a hostile environment. I hesitated, but answered honestly. He proceeded to tell me that there was no way he could protect my privacy, as he could not stop the “grapevine” and that he would not be responsible for what people within the unit said or did. When I met with Commanding Officer later the same day he went over everything I had said and told me why I should be getting discharged but said nothing to confirm it. I was simply told to “hang tight” and wait on what the Battalion Commander would say.
I hoped that the two Marines that I had confided in would be the people that would help protect my privacy. At that point I did not feel safe and I did not know who else to contact. I wasn’t out to my family and my pride kept me from telling my friends in college about it. I was alone, I was depressed. I waited and waited to see what would happen to my position in the Marines and did not hear anything for months. Ultimately I contacted a friend from the unit and asked him to find out my status. He got back to me about a week later and informed me that I was discharged from the Marine Corps in April of 2010.
It took everything I had in me to call home. My family still didn’t know about my sexuality, and they didn’t know that I had been discharged. When I finally called, it was a conversation that I hadn’t expected. Growing up in a devout Catholic household, I didn’t know how my family would take the news. Once I told them everything that had happened, I started crying and tears were coming from both ends of the phone. There was no anger or betrayal. The biggest concern that my family had was that I had to endure the struggle alone.
Since coming out I’ve been very vocal about the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, having appeared on MSNBC, CNN and in newspapers and blogs nationally. I have received a lot of feedback, especially from people at A&M. Unfortunately, it hasn’t all been positive. Several said that I should keep my mouth shut and that I should have kept my mouth shut in the first place. There were many times when I wondered if I had done the right thing.
Many will say that I have lived through a series of unfortunate events. I won’t deny that statement, but I choose to look at it differently. I am in my position because I decided not to compromise my integrity; because I chose to stand up instead of turn a blind eye; because I chose to say something instead of shutting up like many urged me to do. I didn’t think I had it in me to do those things, but I can say I am a better man because of it. I’m still growing, still learning, like everyone else, but for once I know this: I will never again be silent, I will never back down and I will not waste any more time hiding who I am.
I am a gay man, and I couldn’t be prouder.