U.S. Military “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy Officially Ends

President Barack Obama signs the certification stating that the statutory requirements for repeal of DADT (Don't Ask, Don't Tell) have been met, in the Oval Office, July 22, 2011. Pictured, from left, are: Brian Bond, Deputy Director of Public Liaison; Kathleen Hartnett, Associate Counsel to the President; Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta; Kathryn Ruemmler, Counsel to the President; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen; and Vice President Joe Biden. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

“Effective today (Tuesday – Sept. 20, 2011), statements about sexual orientation or lawful acts of homosexual conduct will not be considered as a bar to military service or admission to Service academies, ROTC or any other accession program,” that’s the official word from a Memorandum sent out by the Under Secretary of Defense Clifford Stanley.

Additional materials distributed by the Department of Defense regarding repeal of  “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”:

One poll taken after the Congressional repeal of  “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” showed support by 67 percent. However, not all agree with the policy change that for the first time allows U.S. military members to be open about their sexual orientation without fear of reprisal.

Here are a series of National Public Radio reports on the repeal and what to expect:

The Stars and Stripes article on repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is generating some online comments some supportive others predict the repeal is “Not going to work out well at all.”

And there’s the magazine OutServe for the Association of Actively Serving LGBT Military Personnel. The “Repeal Issue” for September 2011 features a photo essay of military members “who served in silence” during the 18 years of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

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Military Retirement, Veteran Benefitts: Are Changes Coming?

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen visits the memorial commemorating seven CIA agents that were killed in a December 2009 suicide attack at Camp Chapman, Afghanistan, July 31, 2011. DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Released)

American Forces Press Service – The military retirement isn’t going to change any time soon, Defense Department officials said.

“There’s no immediate plan to affect retirement,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told service members at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, July 31.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said any changes to military retirement should be studied carefully and should be “grandfathered” so the military doesn’t break faith with those in the service.

Breaking the faith with those currently serving in active duty is a concern. Recently, an Army Major with close to 20 years service shared with me that the retirement benefits were part of why he stayed in. Now he feels their threatened and worries those who have served may become a budget sacrifice.

The budget reduction process in Washington DC has veterans fearing betrayal well.

Veterans for Common Sense and VoteVets.org sent a strongly worded joint letter to Congress demanding that veterans’ healthcare and benefits be removed from consideration for budget cuts as part of the recent deficit deal. The organization’s talking points:

1. Veterans want a guarantee from Congress that healthcare and benefits for our troops and veterans are “off the table.”  That means no cuts.

2. Veterans support increased funding for jobs, healthcare, and other benefits for our veterans, as the GI Bill is a proven successful model social program that benefits both our veterans and our entire country.

3. Veterans support increased revenue, especially from the rich, as mentioned by billionaire Warren Buffett, to demonstrate shared responsibility.

4. Veterans support greater oversight of trillions of dollars missing from Department of Defense accounts and the continued military withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan as ways to save Americans’ money.

The Associated Press article on their efforts.

Debt Ceiling, Budget Debate Concerns Troops in Afghanistan

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen addresses troops Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan, July 28, 2011. DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Released)

Marines and soldiers at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan and in Kandahar this week got a chance to ask questions of Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as he visited bases throughout the country.

Did they ask about operations, tactics or policy? No. The chairman was peppered with questions about the Congressional debate on raising the debt ceiling and forcing deep budget cuts.

The U.S. Treasury delivers service members’ pay checks, and sends them to veterans and Social Security recipients. “That’s something that the government leadership will have to figure out,” Mullen told the troops. “I honestly hope we don’t get there. But I don’t expect it will affect — certainly in the short-term — operations here and operations around the world.”

So, even in a combat area, U.S. troops are worried about getting paid in the short-term and concerned about cuts in veterans’ benefits in the long-term. To read the full story by By Jim Garamone of the American Forces Press Service, click HERE.

The U.S. Troops in Afghanistan aren’t the only worried ones. The following is from a U.S. Army Veteran who posted on Vantage Point, a VA guest blog for Veterans and others.

Lawrence Fox

By Lawrence Fox

As the debt debate goes on, my greatest fear is that all Veterans will suffer because of the lack of action and/or compassion we are receiving from Washington.

After watching the President’s address and the Republican response on July 25, 2011 I am relieved. You may ask why a Veteran fighting cancer would feel relief from the confusion and parasitism going on in Washington as the government threatens to reduce Veteran benefits and entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare which so many Americans require to exist from day-to-day.

To read Fox’s full blog entry, click HERE.

And the website MilSpouse.com has a special page set up for military spouses with tips from USAA on what they can do should the debt ceiling not be raised in time.

Gates and Mullen on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Repeal

The Senate voted 65-31 on Saturday to overturn the ban on gays serving openly in the military, NPR reported. The measure now goes to President Obama, who made repeal of the 17-year-old policy a campaign promise in 2008.
 

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

Statement by Secretary Robert Gates on Senate Vote to Repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

“I welcome today’s vote by the Senate clearing the way for a legislative repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell‘ law.

“Once this legislation is signed into law by the President, the Department of Defense will immediately proceed with the planning necessary to carry out this change carefully and methodically, but purposefully.  This effort will be led by Dr. Clifford Stanley, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and himself a retired Marine Corps major general and infantry officer.

“The legislation provides that repeal will take effect once the President, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that implementation of the new policies and regulations written by the Department is consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.  As I have stated before, I will approach this process deliberately and will make such certification only after careful consultation with the military service chiefs and our combatant commanders and when I am satisfied that those conditions have been met for all the Services, commands and units.

“It is therefore important that our men and women in uniform understand that while today’s historic vote means that this policy will change, the implementation and certification process will take an additional period of time.  In the meantime, the current law and policy will remain in effect.

“Successful implementation will depend upon strong leadership, a clear message and proactive education throughout the force.  With a continued and sustained commitment to core values of leadership, professionalism and respect for all, I am convinced that the U.S. military can successfully accommodate and implement this change, as it has others in history.”

 

Adm. Mike Mullen, Joint Chiefs of Staff

Statement by Adm. Mike Mullen on Senate Vote to Repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

“I am pleased to see the Congress vote to repeal the law governing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ Handling this through legislation preserves the military’s prerogative to implement change in a responsible, deliberate manner.

“More critically, it is the right thing to do. No longer will able men and women who want to serve and sacrifice for their country have to sacrifice their integrity to do so. We will be a better military as a result.

“I look forward to working with Secretary Gates and the Service chiefs as we set about the task of preparing and certifying the joint force to implement the new law. And I am committed to making sure that process is well-led, maintains our combat readiness and upholds our high standards.”

Adm. Mullen: Fewer Military Moves, More Community Help

Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“I’ve got 40,000 physically wounded, I’ve got hundreds of thousands with [post-traumatic stress] ,” Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the World Congress on Disabilities Friday in Dallas, Texas.

He said the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs need to find new ways for ongoing care of injured warriors because the current “model” has “generated a homeless level, post-Vietnam … that we’re still dealing with 50, 60 years later.”

Mullen applauded advances in treating Traumatic Brain Injury especially in the battlefield and creating better prosthetics for amputees. He said more needs to be done to prevent suicide which is increasing in the military.

He talked about building resilience in the spouses and children of military families. One suggestion he believes could be adopted is to reduce the number of times military families are made to move. Mullen also called on community leaders to help with the education, employment and health care of the returning veterans from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

To read the full article by Karen Parrish of the American Forces Press Service, on Adm. Mullen’s address, click here.

Adm. Mullen: Suicide Rate Will Get Worse

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff addresses soldiers assigned to Fort Bragg. N.C. DoD photo by Specialist Chad J. McNeeley.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, told NPR’s Scott Simon Saturday morning in a radio interview with his wife Deborah that the military suicide rate is increasing and he expects will only get worse before it gets better.

Mullen said that the number of suicides has doubled in number since 2004 and the military suicide rate now exceeds that of the civilian population. He said one reason appears to be the stress of multiple deployments, yet a full third of those who killed themselves had not deployed.

Stigma is also blamed. Asking for help is still seen as a weakness among “tough” warriors. Mullen said no where else is it so important that military leaders step up and “ask for help” to  show that it is not a weakness but a strength to ask for aid.

Deborah Mullen with members of the Gold Star Wives of America, May 2010. DoD photo Specialist Chad J. McNeeley.

“I don’t think they’ll ever leave the war behind,” said Deborah Mullen. She is working with families to better educate spouses, parents and others to understand the warning signs of suicide and to seek help.She worries that OEF/OIF veterans are becoming homeless sooner and at a faster rate than Vietnam veterans. Mrs. Mullen said what’s new is the number of homeless women veterans who have children.

To listen to the NPR interview with Adm. Mullen and Mrs. Mullen click here.

To get immediate help for yourself or a service member, call 800-273-8255. More information is available on VA Suicide Prevention Hot Line.

Here are some of the signs (from the VA Suicide Prevention web site) that someone may be contemplating suicide:

  • Talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself
  • Trying to get pills, guns, or other ways to harm oneself
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide
  • Hopelessness
  • Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
  • Acting in a reckless or risky way
  • Feeling trapped, like there is no way out
  • Saying or feeling there’s no reason for living.

The Department of Defense Suicide Outreach includes links that navigate you to the nearest help. There’s also a self assessment tool to better understand your risk factors. And “it’s for your eyes only.”

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