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Unseen ‘hero’ advocated to repeal DADT policy

Erixon is a junior  rhetoric and politics major can be contacted at william.erixon@drake.edu

On Oct. 27, 1992, Allen R. Schindler, Jr., radioman petty officer third class, was found lying dead on the floor of a public bathroom in Japan where his ship was in port. His head was crushed and his ribs were broken; between the injuries and the tread marks left by his attackers’ shoes, his body could only be identified by a tattoo on his arm. Schindler was stomped to death in that Sasebo, Nagasaki bathroom by one of his shipmates, all because he was suspected of being gay. He was 22.

In the 19 years since that tragic event, America has changed. The progress that we have made and the steps toward equality that we have taken have honored this man’s death, and it means a brighter future for young men and women like him. Unfortunately, one aspect of American life has remained hostile to change, or at least it had until last Tuesday.

Last Tuesday marked the end of the discriminatory policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which was passed in 1993 partly as a response to the death of the young Schindler. Our bravest patriots no longer have to hide who they are in order to serve the country they love. Our gay servicemen and women no longer live under the constant fear of discharge because of who they are.

Since DADT was passed in 1993, more than 13,000 men and women in our armed services have been discharged from duty for simply being gay. They have had their careers destroyed, their lives upended and their patriotism questioned all because of their sexual orientation.

When President Barack Obama signed the repeal into law last December, he said that he stands behind the policy because we should not discriminate based on sexual orientation.

“We are not a nation that says, ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’” Obama said. “We are a nation that says, ‘out of many, we are one.’”

I was extremely proud of my president that day, and I am even more proud of him today. Four years ago I stood in fields, gyms and convention halls here in Iowa and listened to a little-known senator with a funny name tell me about hope, change and the things we could accomplish if we worked together. I never could have imagined just how far he would take us.

But this accomplishment does not just belong to just to Obama; it is the result of the tireless efforts of countless citizens, soldiers and politicians all working toward a common purpose. One man in particular who deserves special recognition is 1st Lt. Josh Seefried. Until 12:01 a.m. last Tuesday morning, Seefried was known publicly only by the name J.D. Smith. Seefried used this alias to build a network of email lists and secret Facebook groups called OutServe, allowing active-duty gay and lesbian service members to gather and communicate without fear of losing their jobs.

Seefried was able to use his experiences with OutServe to publicly advocate for the repeal of DADT, and he even consulted with Pentagon officials on the implementation of the repeal. His actions are commendable and his example is laudable. Seefried is a true American hero, and he doesn’t have to lie about it anymore.

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