From .Voice of San Diego. org:
Don't Ask/Don't Tell of Failure
By KEITH TAYLOR
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Corey Kepler, president and CEO of The TFS Group on Engineer Road, is the personification of the American success story. Right after he was discharged in 2000, he used some of the skills he had honed in the Army to grab a nice chunk of the computer business. A tad short of Horatio Alger perhaps, but it was the good old can-do spirit we Americans take such pride in.
Working from his apartment in Point Loma, Corey started a business that helped bring 320 tanning salons and/beauty parlors into the cyberspace world, and that's just for starters. So far, he has moved into his own office, hired 14 people, and is looking to expand to the East Coast. San Diego is lucky to have him and his business. Our gain is the Army's loss.
About 10 years ago, enticed by the promise of being part of a hi-tech crew that fired Patriot Missiles, young Kepler joined the Army. Soon his leaders found he had an even more valuable talent. He was one of those guys who recognized the tremendous potential of computers, and how to exploit them.
Soon he was sitting in an air conditioned office designing programs while his buddies were toiling away in the blazing sun of Fort Bliss, Texas, Corey wrote programs from scratch, sometimes integrating two or three existing ones to do a unified task. One, a training program he created several years ago, is still being used -- this in a world where computer programs are generally obsolete as soon as they are completed.
During his three-year hitch, he received the Army Achievement Medal and three personal letters of commendation. Any employer, anywhere, would make every effort to keep such a valuable person. Well, all but one, I guess.
Kepler was gay but discreet. He lived within the constraints of the military's "don't ask/don't tell" rules. For more than two years, most of his fellow soldiers, his noncoms, and his officers had no problems with his being gay. One of the letters of commendation was awarded personally by a major general.
Then he got new battery and battalion commanders, a captain and lieutenant colonel respectively. Things changed. His privileges were curtailed and his work, the sort of things for which he'd been so highly commended, were questioned.
Let me, as a veteran of 23 years, point out that isn't unusual and shouldn't be. New skippers must be sure that their predecessors weren't being snowed by a slick con artist. What was unusual was that his immediate seniors confided in him that his sexual orientation was the cause. They even told him things would be very rough if he decided to stay in the Army.
Again, I can attest that isn't uncommon, but it should be. Many a soldier or sailor has been earmarked as a guy who is "out of step." From that point on, life becomes hell.
espite the misuse of the word, being gay isn't queer, but the way our military handles it is. Take the so-called "don't ask" rule. It was instituted in 1993 to prevent just such things as Kepler went through. It didn't. It didn't even prevent much more egregious, often dangerous violations. Within a year of the inauguration of the program, seven soldiers learning Arabic or Farsi at the Defense Language Institute were kicked out; this at a time when we were told our biggest shortcomings in intelligence was a lack of linguists.
The military and our present administration have stayed the course despite the fact that restrictions against gays serving have been lifted elsewhere, here and abroad. My old outfit, the National Security Agency with all its secrecy has dropped the prohibitions. Likewise the FBI, most armed forces around the world, even the San Diego Police Department have lifted restrictions. Only a couple other countries in NATO still ban gays from their armed services.
I'd say it was time to come up to date on this problem, at least as up to date as we were in the Revolution. We might not even have been a republic if it hadn't been for Baron Frederich von Steuben, a gay officer we borrowed from Prussia to win a war.
Congress hired von Steuben to train the Continental forces stationed at the winter encampment at Valley Forge, Pa. He also wrote the official military guide for our Army. It, like Kepler's training program, stayed around for a while. It was our guide until 1812. Cities, towns or counties are named for von Steuben in Maine, New York, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio.
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network was formed about the time "don't ask/don't tell" came out. They are holding a "lobby day" on May 14-16. Their intent is to urge congress to do away this wacko law. I hope congress members pay attention.
Keith Taylor is a retired navy officer living in Chula Vista. He can be reached at KRTaylorxyz@aol.com.