Washington, DC’s local gay magazine, METROWEEKLY, has some excellent profiles of gay servicemembers and their stories since coming out. Of particular note is Chief Petty Officer Ronnie Ratliff, Navy, whose story includes some of the unintended damage that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) caused the service itself:
In a career development that would seem even more tense, Ratliff ended up in the legal department where he handled DADT-related cases. On the one hand, it made it easier to head off cases where servicemembers were targeted by unfounded rumors or angry exes.
”I can tell you that in my career, if it didn’t involve sexual misconduct or the person admitting and wanting out of the military, I have never processed a case [that was] a witch hunt,” he says.
But it was difficult to see circumstances that forced other servicemembers to leave. Although some, he notes with a hint of disdain, chose to use DADT as an excuse to get out, others were forced to leave when faced with choosing between being reassigned across the country or staying with a same-sex spouse who couldn’t afford to make the move as well.
I am sure there are many men and women who actively or passively made the choice to get out of the military due to the policy. How many talented men and women were lost, we’ll never be quite sure, but as time goes on, I think we’ll discover having the policy caused far more disruption that repealing it ever will.
Now that the policy is repealed, it will be very interesting to see if newly enlisted men and women; ones who never knew hiding under a DADT policy, will be more visible. As Petty Officer Ratliff notes:
”We’re still scared. We’re still a little frightened to come out completely, because there could be repercussions that we’re unaware of,” he says. ”We’re testing the waters.”
Jennifer Pollom, a servicemember from the Army says:
…it will take a few more years for the policy to settle in and for people to feel comfortable with it, particularly older soldiers and higher-ranking officers. Still, she notes, that’s progress. She adds that the younger soldiers seem to not have a problem with the issue.