Picking Up the Torch

By Jeremy Johnson

What a delightful evening. It really felt like the passing of the torch and for the new generation to lead the way; for there is much to be done to care for our families and service members.” – Col Grethe Cammermeyer, on the 20th SLDN Annual Dinner

This remark was left on my Facebook page by Col, Cammermeyer after I commented on how many heroes I’d met while attending my first SLDN Annual Dinner.

What struck me was its poignancy and pertinence to the thoughts crossing my own mind in recent months. Though she still continues to pursue equality and a better experience for women in uniform through her work on DACOWITS (Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services), she’s fought hard for open service and the torch has been passed to those of us still in uniform to take up the next challenge.

Take a look at those who have fought the battle in the years leading up to repeal.  By and large, they were veterans and civilians.  The majority were NOT actively serving.  They couldn’t fight the battle without risking the very jobs they loved.

Now it’s up to us. We have our voice. They’ve won that victory for us and in the end, it included us. I was able to return to uniform because of it.

If this country is going to be convinced that a military family can include a gay couple, it is going to take gay families to make the case and allies to support them. Active duty allies will make the case harder to take apart.

That means we’re just getting started. The SLDN case launched against DOMA, to fight for equal rights and benefits for same-gender marriages in uniform, is the next chapter.

To push it and support it, we’ve got to keep talking and sharing our experiences – even if we don’t have a spouse or children. We have to fight for these rights for those who are affected today. I’ve seen the impact of opening up to allies, even in the face of DADT, while I was in uniform.  Imagine the conversations we can have now that it’s repealed.

Repeal isn’t just a victory. It’s a responsibility.  If we do the right thing, we won’t take for granted Col. Cammermeyer, Chief Dave Guy-Gainer, Frank Kameny, TSgt. Leonard Matlovich, and all of the other men and women who have sacrificed time, sweat, and tears to give us a voice.

Today – we take the torch – whether we like it or not – and decide whether it will burn, or die.  Are you willing to fight to keep it lit?

About Jeremy Johnson

Jeremy Johnson is co-lead of the DC/MD/NoVA/DE Chapter of OutServe, and a full-time sociology student at University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Prior to beginning his college education, Jeremy served 10 years as an active duty journalist in the United States Navy. He was discharged under the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy in May of 2007. On September 22, 2011, Johnson became the first DADT dischargee in the nation to publicly reenlist in the military, joining the U.S. Navy Reserves at the same rank and position he left. Jeremy volunteers with The 6th Branch in Baltimore City, MD, as a board member and primary team member on "Operation: Oliver", a veteran-sponsored community revitalization project.

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