Being ‘Out’ in the Marine Corps

Ball (edited)Anyone who knows me also knows that I’m self-confident. I’m intelligent, I’m honest (sometimes brutally), and I will sacrifice anything–short of my integrity–for people and causes who need my help. I am willing to learn, I challenge people, and I expect people to challenge me in return, because I know the result will be better and clearer understanding. These things make me who I am, and they make me a good Marine. In fact, they make me good at just about everything I do, and they are the same things that drive me to work harder, do more, and push those around me to do the same. Even equipped with this knowledge of myself, I struggle to maintain the level of strength it takes to meet the challenges I face on a daily basis as an openly gay Marine.

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Proposing to Ben at the White House

IMG_3349(Photo by Jennifer Cintron)

IMG_6629(Photo by Mikey Tapscott)

Such a wonderful night for us, and it’s received so much attention on Facebook (here and here), Redditimgur, BuzzFeed, Gawker, and Towleroad!  Really, the only thing on my mind was making it a memorable and unforgettable night for Ben. Thank you all for the well wishes!!

Why Japan?

There are a few reasons why, at this point in my career, I’m looking to transfer overseas to Japan, despite the challenges it will present in terms of my family and relationship.

First, I have spent the better part of my ten years in the Marine Corps thus far in Southern California (minus school on the east coast and a deployment to Iraq in 2007-08), so the option to stay in Southern California is not open to me right now. The Marine Corps encourages moving around, partially to broaden the experience in officers, and partially because it isn’t fair to let only a few of us get all the great duty stations. In the Marine Corps, we have, essentially, three options when it comes to major geographical areas where we can be stationed: West Coast (Southern California), East Coast (North Carolina), and Okinawa, Japan (Note: There are other assignments in other places, but the vast majority of duty stations are in these three places). I have between little and no desire to spend any more time than required in North Carolina, so Japan is the next best option for me.

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Coming soon…

In May 2013, I will finish my assignment at Marine Corps University and execute orders to my next duty station. I am hoping to be assigned to Japan, but this is going to bring with it many challenges in terms of my relationship with Ben. We are going to document all of the work as we face this challenge, to include people we talk to, the documents we need, the legal issues we will face with DOMA, and post some tips for those who will inevitably follow in our path later. I’ll be tagging those posts specially so you can find them at a glance, and Ben will even be writing some. Stay tuned to follow the tales of our (mis)adventures!

A year in review and the road ahead

A photo I took from the White Room of the East Wing of the White House, while attending the 2012 LGBT Pride Month Reception.

This week I will relinquish command of my company in preparation of my move to the East Coast for my next assignment as a student at the Expeditionary Warfare School in Quantico, Virginia. As I prepare to move, I have taken some time to reflect on my year in command and think about what will come next.

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My grandfather

My grandfather died today. I don’t have much to say except he was the inspiration to my service.

Donald W. van Buren was a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He served in World War II as a B-17G “Flying Fortress” pilot in the 860th Bombardment Squadron, 493 Bombardment Group, 8th Army Air Corps. Arriving in England in late April 1945, he flew aid missions out of RAF Debach (Ipswich, England), dropping food and relief items primarily in the Netherlands where supply routes had been cut off by the German Army. After the war ended in the European Theater, he redeployed back to the United States and was to train on B-29 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to fly in the Pacific Theater, but after the end of the war with Japan the unit was deactivated.

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On memories of childhood

I’ll be honest, I really don’t remember many specifics from my life as a kid. I have vague memories of the houses I grew up in, names of some of the friends I played with, vacations we went on as a family, etc. The more distinct memories I have of my life, even through recent years, are the ones that have some sensory association, like the smell of popcorn we used to pop before my mother’s concerts in the park as a flutist with the Naperville Municipal Band, or emotional association, like how excited I was when I found out we were going on a “Big Red Boat” (Premiere Cruise Line) cruise to the Bahamas and Disney World. It seems, though, that emotion extreme enough to trigger these memories didn’t come very often, and there are vast stretches of my life I just don’t have access to anymore.

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On the path forward

As I’ve been saying for the past several days, the response to my blog posts last week has been incredible. I am absolutely touched and inspired by all the positive comments I’ve received and continue to receive. I think at this point there are over 500 positive comments on the various pages, and you can see the wide range of people who have been touched by this story. I mentioned in a previous post that I wasn’t going to post negative comments. Surprisingly there have been few, and none worth your time even to read.

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On Marines, equality, and my date to the Marine Corps Birthday Ball (Part 3)

Continued from Part 2

I have spent most of my career being single. Anyone who has been in a relationship with a Marine knows it’s difficult. Long hours, short-notice trips, weeks in the field, months on deployment, weekends/holidays/birthdays missed–these affect all of us. DADT just added another complex layer to an already difficult endeavor. For someone to be in a relationship with me, he would be to required accept the fact that I was going to lie about who he was if I mentioned him at all. When asked by commanders and coworkers if I was married, I’d say no even if we lived together. It is the epitome of a double life: on the one hand there is a special person who makes the unique challenges of your life remotely bearable, while at the same time you’re denying to anyone interested that he even exists. If you do let down long enough to go out in public together, your head is on a swivel, always looking out for anyone who may see you doing something that could get you in trouble. Even going to the gym could be a challenge–you want to spend the time together as a couple, but if there are Marines at the same gym, you’re just “workout buddies” and it becomes even worse: he has to stand there while you deny your relationship in front of his face. How many times can you do that before you just give up trying? I have no idea what that must have felt like for the men I dated. I do know that it killed a piece of me every time I had to do it.

Continue reading “On Marines, equality, and my date to the Marine Corps Birthday Ball (Part 3)”