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Preserving The Right To Serve



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Preserving The Right To Serve

To the Editor:

As we witness the debate swirling around the “Do Not Ask, Do Not Tell” policy for our armed services I can’t help but wonder where Sergeant N (not his real name or initial) is these days.

Sergeant N served with me in peace and war. He was an NCO or non-commissioned officer — a midlevel management job that is vital to the success of any unit, any mission in every service. These are the men and women who say to new recruits, “Don’t salute me, I work for a living”!

Everyone who has served in any branch of the service knows the NCO corps is the backbone of the unit. They are first-line supervisors, mentors, teachers, parents-by-proxy, a soldier’s best friend or worst nightmare depending on conditions.

Many, many years ago on the eve of our departure into combat, Sergeant N asked (through the chain of command as is required) to speak to me privately. We sat down late at night and he told me he was gay.

He told me that he wanted to go to war with his “kids” and he was certain his section would perform well under fire. However, he went on to say, if as the commander, I felt he would jeopardize the mission or worse put “the kids lives at risk” then he would step aside.

I told Sergeant N that he was going to go with us. Why? Simple, he was the best person for the job. He knew his section’s capability, limitations, and he knew his role inside out. A better man for the job did not exist. His sexual orientation was – in my opinion – of no consequence in his ability to lead his people or contribute to our mission.

My hope, as a one who would gladly relive each and every day of service to this country, is that the nation’s leaders and its citizens will strike this discriminating policy from the books and from their minds.

Men and women who are gay or lesbian have as much right to serve their nation as anyone else does. The services today are all volunteer as opposed to mostly draftees when I joined the Army in 1968. Bottom line is simple: the troops today want to serve; they have heard a call and responded. These men and women are a national treasure. They put it all right on the line and place a bet with their lives that few Americans have ever had to place. To them we owe our freedom.

 Sergent N was an outstanding NCO and he did a great job under fire (as I knew he would) and so did his “kids.” I would gladly serve again with him anytime — anywhere. He was a credit to the unit, the Army and his “kids” and a great soldier!

RP Gottmeier, Col, USA (Ret)

13 Antler Pine Road, Sandy Hook                November 30, 2010

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