“Because the world is held together with broken lies and promises . . .” ~ Matthew Ryan, “The World Is . . .”

                   

“This is an invisible song
From an invisible man
Lost in the wilderness
Of a static avalanche” ~ Matthew Ryan, “The World Is . . .”

If you believe as I do that DADT is repugnant and has cost the U.S. military too many dedicated men and women, then please read the following.

Jeremy’s letter has been nominated for CNN’s first ever iReport Awards.  Click the link, read the story and vote for it.

Link to vote is here.

Link to his letter is here

Sailor Jeremy Johnson

Jeremy Johnson joined the Navy in 1996 and received an honorable discharge after he came out to his commanding officer in 2007. He shared the powerful letter that ended his career because he wanted others to see how coming out in the military feels.

iReport — **UPDATE – 2/16/2011:  Since the Repeal Law was signed December 22, 2010, I am now working with my Conressional Representative to return to military service. Though it cannot happen until certification is signed and 60 days have passed, my local Navy recruiter has made it clear I will be welcome.  Thank you all for your thoughtful words and encouragement.** 

I thought I might share the note that got me booted from the United States Navy. The CO read it very carefully and before turning it over to the JAG (legal department), asked me to reconsider. I was told that the policy would be probably be overturned soon and that I could simply take the paperwork with me like it never happened. I wish he had been right… that was almost three years ago and even with President Obama in office the enacted repeal won’t begin for at least 12 months.  In the end, I did receive an Honorable discharge. 

Here’s the Coming Out letter I handed my Commanding Officer: 

March 6, 2007 

Captain, 

I have served the United States Navy in an Honorable fashion since I joined in December of 1996. In ten years of service, I have made every effort to make a difference in the lives of the people I have both worked for and supervised. 

At Yokota Air Base, I did my best to learn my new trade in a joint service environment and pass it on to those around me.In Italy, as a newly-frocked Third Class Petty Officer, I worked to bring an un-designated Sailor into our rate and he is now a First Class Petty Officer. 

In Washington, D.C., I served a high profile tour as a broadcast “A” school instructor, not really to teach journalism, but to be at the career gateway where I could help new Sailors prepare for their lives in the active fleet once they graduated. It was one of the richest and most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. 

In Greece, I inherited a cable TV-based radio station with no existing  “On-Air” practices and institutionalized it to DoD standards within nine months, bringing it online in time to launch the first “over-the-air” military radio station in Greece since 1995. 

I am proud of all of these accomplishments.  What I am not proud of however, is my forced lack of Integrity. Throughout my career, I’ve had to practice a duality that requires me to serve my country under false pretenses. 

I am a homosexual American citizen and while I fight to defend the rights of free speech and a democratic legislature process, I suffer because these very same freedoms are denied to me as a gay Sailor. I can not write to my congressional members and tell them my story without risking my career. 

On a regular and increasing basis, I am hearing and even reading (in shipboard e-mail) demeaning remarks and comments belittling homosexuals. While I was once willing to endure these comments and give up my otherwise constitutionally guaranteed freedom to defend myself (were I black, Asian, etc.), I now find I’m unwilling and unable to continue. 

Therefore, I am respectfully requesting that you, my Commanding Officer, endorse my request to be administratively separated from the U.S. Navy on the grounds of a “homosexual statement”. (MILPERSMAN 1910-148) 

I realize I’m asking for an RE-4 discharge and forfeiting the right to return to military service. This request comes because I value the Navy core values of “Honor, Courage and Commitment” more than the moral dilemma of whether to complete another year of service and accept government benefits based on another day, week or month of carrying on my life as a liar. 

While I’ve remained silent, men like Army PFC Barry Winchell and Navy SN Allan Schindler, both killed by fellow service members, suffered the physical repercussions of mere perception.  Men like gay Marine Sgt. Eric Alva, the first soldier to be injured in Iraq, were unable to call home to a “significant other” because they weren’t allowed to have one in the first place, let alone communicate with them.  In fact, under the policy, Sgt. Alva wasn’t even allowed to mention his sexuality to friends or family. 

Living with the ever-present worry of being “outed” is a sacrifice that has affected me both mentally and physically (for anxiety and lack of sleep) and unless the Navy leaves me no other options, I would like return to a civilian lifestyle. 

I recently received my profile sheet from the 2007 Chief’s exam and my score was in the 91st percentile. I have made the eligibility list and I realize that I stand a decent chance of picking up E-7. However, I have no intention of submitting a “package” or even of accepting the promotion if selected. 

In Italy, I worked for a Chief who had 16-years of service and was one of the most professional and outstanding khakis I’ve ever known. Unfortunately, one year after he transferred to Boston, he realized that the same sacrifice I’ve described above was too difficult for even a 17-year Sailor and worked with his Commanding Officer to exit the Navy.  His CO considered him a valuable asset and she asked him to reconsider his statement, even refusing initially to let him go.  By no stretch of the imagination has his discharge made his life easier, but it has made him immeasurably happier. 

One of my former “A” school students, JO1 Rhonda Davis, made national headlines in 2006 for standing on the Brooklyn Bridge during a rally and announcing on the radio that she wanted equality so she could be with her Asian girlfriend.  When approached by her CO, he told her that if it wasn’t her who made the comment “I’d like to marry my Japanese girlfriend” on the radio, all she had to do was deny it and the whole thing would go away.  After considering for a moment, she replied, “Sir, I believe you have the facts wrong.” He asked what she meant, presumably hoping she would say that it wasn’t her. She replied, “My girlfriend is Korean.” 

He laughed and though he said he would miss her dedication, he worked with her to let her exit the military under Honorable Conditions and she now works in the civilian sector… also much happier, though also notably disappointed that she gave up an 11-year military career she loved. 

Regardless of geography or rank, two more years of living under these conditions would be unbearable for me. I’m losing respect for myself.  Air Force Technical Sgt. Leonard Matlovich, a gay Vietnam veteran who passed away in 1988 was buried in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. with this simple statement on his tombstone: 

“When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.” 

It’s a contradiction and observation that describes the way I feel about my service. Wanted, yet unsupported. I awake every morning and look into the mirror at the face of a hypocrite.  I know that you have the option of denying this request based on “needs of the Navy”, but I am risking humiliation and ridicule by my shipmates at this command to humbly ask for your assistance. 

Please help me by giving me the opportunity to restore my dignity and my life by living it as an Honest Man. 

Very Respectfully…

“Freedom lies in being bold.” ~ Robert Frost

More later. Peace.

Music by Matthew Ryan, “The World Is . . .”

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“October is a symphony of permanence and change.” ~ Bonaro W. Overstreet

Toward the Storm (Pixdaus)

 

                    

“There are many windows through
which we can look out into the
world, searching for meaning . . . ” ~ Jane Goodall

Field Storm 1 (Pixdaus)

To my credit, the header for this post was applicable when I first began writing it; that it is now almost an entire week later does not negate the sentiment behind the header, so I opted to keep it.

The previous post, abandoned in midstream and never quite returned to in any creative fashion probably is the best example of what life has been like: starts and stops, wrong turns, lost threads, and unfinished thoughts. It is almost 11 p.m. on Wednesday evening. That I last had the opportunity to write was almost seven days ago simply blows my mind.

How did it get to be November? Where was I? How can Thanksgiving be in a few weeks? How did Gretchen win “Project Runway”? Oops, that last one just sort of slipped in when I wasn’t paying attention.

If you could see this draft, you would definitely question my grip on reality. I have about ten different quotes on this page relating to three, possibly four themes. Rather than try to sort through and pare beforehand, I have decided to just write and see what fits. Very revealing actually in that I have no idea what my life will be like from one moment to the next, so how could I possibly know which quote will fit and which quote will be irrelevant?

You see my predicament . . .

“For me there is only the traveling on the paths that have heart, on any path that may have heart.There I travel, and the only worthwhile challenge for me is to traverse its full length. And there I travel—looking, looking, breathlessly.” ~ Carlos Castaneda

Before the Storm by Joel Le Montagner (Pixdaus)

I’m still camping out at my mother’s house. Her broken tibia is mending quite well (according to the orthopaedic surgeon who saw her this morning), but her stomach ailments remain mysterious and unresponsive (according to the urgent care physician we saw after the visit to the orthopaedist). Four and a half hours later, my mother felt slightly better as she had accomplished one major goal in getting her rather large and bulky immobilizing brace changed to something smaller and more comfortable.

I, however, felt that eating glass might actually be a comforting alternative to the morning’s events. I suppose it had been building for a while, but today was my breaking point. I knew that if I did not get away, get away from my mother, get away from this house, get away from the various medications and ailments and problems and prognoses that Corey might have to have me fitted for a full-body immobilizing brace.

I texted my daughter to ask her to please spot me today by coming over and staying with my mother as I was nearing a breaking point. Her reply text only reinforced that aspect of my life that is in and of itself a large part of the problem: she would be over in a “bit” as she still had to eat lunch, wash the dishes, takes a shower . . . essentially, in her sweet time, my request be damned. That she finally deigned to make an appearance at 5:30 did not amuse me in the least.

Nevertheless, after returning from the doctors’ visits I settled my mother in with lunch, several doses of pepto tablets measured out to chew each hour in an aggressive move by the urgent care physician to calm her stomach, a cup of tea, a glass of 7-up, her reading glasses, and the television remote control. Then I left. Ostensibly to pick up Brett at school, but the destination could have been the grocery store. Anywhere was better than here, and I did not want to have my meltdown in front of my mother only to have her retreat into her poor, pitiful me persona, which would, in turn, reduce me to a large puddle of guilt.

“So wrap up care in a cobweb
and drop it down the well into that world inverted
where left is always right,
where the shadows are really the body,
where we stay awake all night,
where the heavens are shallow as the sea” ~ Elizabeth Bishop, “Insomnia”

Field Storm 2 (Pixdaus)

Moving along . . . I spent some time this afternoon with Brett and my three dogs; I believe that I can attest that all involved—human and canine—benefitted from the quality time. Brett and I talked about nothing of any great importance as we took turns rubbing bellies and ears and heaping attention on dogs that quite obviously never receive a kind word, a small treat, or any love at all . . .

So here I am, sitting here with my music playing quietly in a house that is finally, thankfully, quiet. If  you were to ask me what my aversion to noise is, I might be hard-pressed to answer you, especially as I can engage in as much inane chatter as the next person. But having moved from my parents’ home a long time ago, having left a home that subsists on a backdrop of television during every waking moment, I have become much accustomed to having my silence when I want it and if I need it, that and the fact that I no longer possess the ability to tune out that which I do not want to hear, such as how much the showcase is on “The Price is Right” or the screech of the wheel as it turns on “Wheel of Fortune.”

When my mother first fell, I never dreamt that I would still be here full-time six weeks later. Truthfully, though, I don’t really know what I thought or believed at the time, but as the small collection of necessities that I had initially spread about my old bedroom began to grow into might-need items, I realized that life had shifted at some point and had caught me unawares and was taking me along for the ride.

Perhaps that is what troubles me the most about this entire situation: the fact that nothing, I mean absolutely nothing, is controllable. What works on day is completely useless 24 hours later. Signs of improvement can morph into a life-threatening circumstance in less than half a day. And not since the days of Caitlin’s hospitalization has my life been this out of control.

And I find that I cannot even turn to one of my most inviting avenues for comfort: I cannot get on the computer, find answers to my questions, dig for facts. Knowledge is not a mouse click away, and that barrier only adds to my feelings of frustration. I use my knowledge as a shield. Give me facts and I can fight the fears. Medicine X has what side effects? I’ll look that up. No wait. No connection. Can’t leave mom alone to go use a computer at my house. Too many ifs in play. Perhaps I’ll twiddle my thumbs a bit more.

And as each day passes, I am mindful of the calendar, fitfully attuned to the days passing into the beginning of November, nearing the anniversary of Caitlin’s death, the anniversary of my father’s death. Each year from September through November, I hold the incipient crash at bay, never knowing if it will be a bad year or a good year, never able to predict how my psyche will assimilate the events of the days, whether I will feel the emotional pain keenly or merely sense subconsciously the loss.

“And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field mouse
Not shaking the grass.” ~ Ezra Pound, Poems of Lustra 

Field Storm 3 by Dmitry Shirkov (Pixdaus)

So what is the theme of this post? Is it time, that it passes too quickly and leaves us confused in its wake? Is it silence, like the air in a field right before a storm, so sweet and still, a moment suspended? Is it my endless search for meaning and answers in a time in which, perhaps, no true answers exist? Or is it simply this:

That in the end, we are all so much dross, not nearly as valuable as we hope, that we are buffeted about like miniscule, insignificant creatures caught in life’s maelstrom, and if, if we are to move beyond, if we are to achieve each our own significance, then we must remain constantly attuned to our personal mainspring lest we become too taughtly wound.

The trick, my friends, is to know exactly how much torsion our psyches can tolerate—that ideal balance between energy and inertia—so that life, the days, the hours, the minutes—unwind as we would hope. For the alternative, to be sprung all at once, leaves nothing for the next time fate decides to hurl us headlong into chaos.

Remember, the temporal slingshot only works in the cinema, and life can slip by like a field mouse.

Music by Matthew Ryan, “The World Is . . . ”