Gays keen to rejoin armed services
DESPITE sometimes bitter partings with the military, many gay men and lesbians who were discharged under the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy say they want to rejoin the armed services, drawn by a life they miss or stable pay and benefits they could not find in civilian life.
DESPITE sometimes bitter partings with the military, many gay men and lesbians who were discharged under the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy say they want to rejoin the armed services, drawn by a life they miss or stable pay and benefits they could not find in civilian life.By some estimates, hundreds of gay men and lesbians among the more than 13,000 who were discharged under the policy have contacted recruiters or advocacy groups saying they want to re-enlist after the policy is repealed on September 20.Bleu Copas, (pictured) is one. He had been in the army just three years when someone sent an anonymous email to his commanders telling them he was gay. After he was discharged in 2006 under "don't ask, don't tell", the military's ban on openly gay troops, "it took away all my value as a person," he recalled.Though the Pentagon says it will welcome their applications, former service members discharged for homosexuality will not be granted special treatment. They will have to pass physical fitness tests and prove they have skills the armed services need. Some will have aged to the point that they will need waivers. Even if they pass those hurdles, there is no guarantee they will go back to their former jobs or ranks. And because the armed services are beginning to shrink, some will be rejected because there are no places available.People discharged under "don't ask, don't tell" who want to return to service "will be evaluated according to the same criteria and requirements applicable to all others seeking re-entry into the military", said Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez. "The services will continue to base accessions of prior-service members on the needs of the service and the skills and qualifications of the applicants."As with all people who join the military, the reasons for wanting to rejoin vary widely. Some say they want to finish what they started, but on their own terms. Others point to the steady pay, healthcare and retirement benefits. Still others talk about a desire to serve."It's a hunger," said Mr Copas, 35, who works with homeless veterans in Knoxville, Tennessee. "It doesn't necessarily make sense. It's the idea of faith, like an obligation to family."