Thursday, February 18, 2010


From Keith Taylor...

Me and the Admiral


Keith Taylor

Admiral Mike Mullen and I have something in common. We are both Navy men of long standing. I enlisted in 1947, and made the leap from enlisted to officer in 1964. Mike became an ensign in 1968. Hey, I outranked him by half a stripe, but that was temporary. I stayed a JagGee. Mike ended up with so much gold on his sleeve I wonder how he is able to raise his arm to return a salute, and that’s a lot. He’s now the top dog in our armed forces.

But me and the Admiral have more in common than being veterans for a long time. Both of us bought the idea that homosexuality and military life were incompatible. I don’t know what they taught the plebes at Annapolis in the 60s, but the boot pushers at Great Lakes in 1947 told us those guys weren’t to be trusted or tolerated, and they were to be discharged as soon as they were caught, simple as that.

With “everybody” believing the same thing it was easy to go along. But doubt crept in. In 1964 shortly after the Navy “promoted” me from being the senior enlisted man on a ship to being the junior officer in the universe, an ensign. I was assigned to a small island far away when my skipper suddenly disappeared.

Mister Smith (not his real name) was, like me, a mustang. He was also a grouchy old goat, but he sported a chest full of ribbons gained from a long and honorable 26-years in the Navy. Ironically Smitty’s request for retirement was turned down because he was too valuable and the Navy would have to find a qualified relief. Then he made a trip to Washington to discuss a problem and we never saw him again.

Word about him filtered down the scuttlebutt pipeline slowly. Only two things are known for sure. He was caught in some sort of homosexual act and was given a choice of a general court martial or a general discharge. Some said he was so drunk he didn’t know what he was doing. If so, that didn’t matter. The rules of the Uniform Code of Military Justice were immutable. Any penetration no matter how slight was forbidden. Whether Greg penetrated or was penetrated didn’t matter. He was a goner. Twenty-six years of faithful, sometimes, cantankerous, service was wiped out by those archaic rules.

But that was a long time ago. The term “homosexual” disappeared and was replaced by the ironic term “gay.” In 1993 a new president promised to change the rules and allow gay men and women to serve in the armed forces. But it was thwarted by congress with the strong backing of the leaders of the armed forces. We ended up with don’t ask, don’t tell rule. It was a great invitation to sweep a problem, if it was a problem, under the desk.

In essence it said, our fighting men and women could be as gay as they wished as long as they didn’t tell anybody, and as long as they didn’t have sex with folks of the same sex. All sorts of sex is against the law but, some laws are more vigorously prosecuted. None more than when the word “gay” pops up.

As with so many compromises it was a complete flop. According to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a group devoted to defending gays who are being discriminated against by the military, discharges increased 72% in the first ten years of Don’t Ask.

Now a new president is again trying to carry out a campaign policy by doing away with roadblocks to their serving. And again we hear the objections. Our local congressman, Duncan Hunter, just raised the horrible specter that rescinding the ban altogether would open the military “to transgenders, to hermaphrodites, to gays and lesbians." Not that it was a huge problem. I never took a shower with a hermaphrodite during my 22 years, nine months, and 11 days active service. Nor did I take one with a lesbian. Gays, I’m just not sure.

But the congressman seems to be on the losing side of this. A poll just out by Military Times indicates only half of its readers don’t ask compared to 63% a few years ago.

I doubt that he was polled, but my old running mate (for a short while) changed course as well. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, testified before the Senate Armed Forces Committee, “No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens,”

Welcome aboard the ship of common sense admiral, even if it took you a while.

Keith Taylor is a retired Navy officer living in Chula Vista. He can be reached at


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