Editors' Note: "Stories from the Frontlines: Letters to President Barack Obama" is a new media campaign launched to underscore the urgent need for congressional action and presidential leadership at this critical point in the fight to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT). Every weekday morning as we approach the markup of the Defense Authorization bill in the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, SLDN and a coalition of voices supporting repeal will share an open letter to the President from a person impacted by this discriminatory law. We are urging the President to include repeal in the Administration's defense budget recommendations, but also to voice his support as we work to muster the 15 critical votes needed on the Senate Armed Services Committee to include repeal. The Defense Authorization bill represents the best legislative vehicle to bring repeal to the president's desk. It also was the same vehicle used to pass DADT in 1993. By working together, we can help build momentum to get the votes! We ask that you forward and post these personal stories.
Today's open letter to President Obama is from former Petty Officer Jason Daniel Knight. It's after the jump.
May 11, 2010
President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
It was five months before the September 11th attacks when I found myself outside a military recruiters office signing up for the U.S. Navy. I could no longer afford college. And things in my personal life weren't going according to plan. I wanted to experience life outside of southeastern Pennsylvania. I enlisted on a random Friday in April of 2001 and left for boot camp the following Monday. I was a recruiter's dream candidate.
My first tour of duty was the prestigious Ceremonial Guard in Washington, D.C., where I represented our country at official White House ceremonies and during state and military funerals at Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
In my two-year period, I was present at more than 1500 military funerals as part of the Firing Party rendering the 21-gun salute. It was here that I learned what truly serving our great nation really meant, and the ultimate price we all swore to pay, if fate was so. Standing on the berm, across the river from a burning Pentagon on September 11th only solidified my desire to serve.
My desire to serve my country continued while I completed my training as a Hebrew Linguist and began working in the field at Fort Gordon, Georgia. But I was also struggling with my own self discoveries.
In 2004, I filed paperwork annulling my marriage because I realized that I was gay. Keeping with the Navy's core values of honesty and integrity, and very much naive to the severity of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," I provided the military with copies along with a written statement to my commander, which subsequently resulted in my discharge under the law.
I was ousted from the service I loved, facing a recoupment of $13,000 sign-on bonus I received, and ushered to the gate. I felt shunned, broken and confused.
After a year of recovery, I received a letter recalling me back to service. While I didn't understand why, I had an overwhelming sense of joy to return to the service I so loved.
I was sent to Kuwait for a year with the U.S. Navy Customs Battalion Romeo in 2006 where I continued to garner accolades for my service and even upped in rank, all while serving completely open. My immediate commanders and colleges were aware that I had been discharged once under DADT and knew that I was gay, yet they supported me because I was a great sailor.
After the March 2007 comments by General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he expressed his personal views of homosexuality as "immoral," I decided to express my own personal feelings in a letter to the editor. This resulted in my second discharge under DADT, but I was willing to accept it.
Mr. President, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" must be repealed. This law forces good people to lie, evade and mislead their fellow comrades and commanders and goes against the very core values of the military service in which we serve. It forces undue stress in the lives of those that must hide.
With a military stretched thin between two wars, now is the time to stop discharging men and women who valiantly serve our nation, many who are in mission critical jobs. Repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" now.
Jason Daniel Knight
Former Petty Officer 2nd Class, U. S. Navy