Life After Being Discharged From The Military Under DADT
WASHINGTON - Dustin White was ready to serve his country overseas. After signing up for the New Jersey National Guard at the age of 17 and going through a complicated, 24-week training to specialize in electronic missile systems repair, White wanted to do his part and join his friends who were deployed.
But there was one big problem: As a gay man who could not come out because of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy banning openly gay service members, his partner back home wouldn't have access to the support services that heterosexual spouses and partners receive.
"My biggest concern was that if I left, what kind of support would my partner get in any way? And the answer to that was: Zero. No support whatsoever," White told The Huffington Post in an interview.
"Over the course of time, it kind of started eating away at me. I would go to my drill weekend, and I would always hear people talking about their families or their kids, their wives and girlfriends. Everyone was always able to openly talk about their personal life, and I couldn't. I couldn't relate to anybody, and I couldn't share anything about myself personally with anyone because I always had to be afraid if I was going to get kicked out."
White was one of the 261 service members discharged from the military under DADT in fiscal year 2010, according to data obtained by Servicemembers United. Although this figure represented an all-time annual low since the policy began in 1994, many of these discharges came after Defense Secretary Robert Gates told commanders to effectively stop enforcing the ban on openly gay troops.
Gates' order, issued on March 25, 2010, made it harder for third parties to out an individual and raised the rank of officer required to authorize an investigation and ultimately approve a dismissal.
White was discharged in April, just after the change in policy. He said that at the time, he didn't know about Gates' order and doesn't remember ever receiving a formal briefing on it.
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