Someone recently suggested that there is no one to bail out America, so we need to cut government spending. This is false, there are people who can solve our economic woes: us. Our government ultimately exists to take care of us, and that costs money. Defense, education, health care, infrastructure. The price of everything has gone up and will continue to, yet we want to pay less and less for the services that keep us safe. We want better education, better health care, better roads, better environment, better disaster response, and then we vote for candidates who will promise us they can deliver those things while reducing what our share of the bill is. When will we realize this is impossible?
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.
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!
My big coming out was at the Pentagon last June at the first official LGBT Pride Month event. You can check out the video at C-SPAN (my part begins at 36:20). Still, on this day, I thought I would take a minute to express my pride in those fellow service members–both LGBT and our straight allies–who express their support for equality.
I will also take a brief moment to encourage those who are on the fence to come out. It’s a personal decision, to be sure, but it’s a decision that is based on integrity rather than fear. Coming out is not only personally liberating, but it’s an inspiration to those around you who need to know that we’re here, in every community, in every family, and deserve exactly the same rights to live our lives and pursue our dreams.
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.
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.
I recently gave a lecture at San Diego State University with my good friend Kristen Kavanaugh, a fellow Marine and former captain, and one of the founders of the Military Acceptance Project. The lecture was the first of their FLUID Lecture Series, which is a public lecture series focusing on the diversity of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Intersex Queer and Ally community.
In the locker room at my office the other day, an unused locker’s doors were open, and I saw a bumper sticker that was affixed to one of the doors. It said, “Keep the Queens Out of the Marines.” I’ve never referred to myself as a queen. It’s not that I don’t like it, I just don’t relate to the term. I understand that some gays do, but not all of us. Nevertheless, in that moment, I was a queen, and I was unwelcome.
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.
Whenever opponents of open gay service in the military are asked why they favor “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) (or an outright ban on gays serving in the military), they respond that sexuality has no place in the military, and they couldn’t be more wrong. As long as there are humans serving in the military, sexuality will have a place there as well. Even a cursory glance at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs shows that sexuality plays a role in the human condition. It plays a role in every level of this pyramid, yet opponents of gay service ignore the role sexuality plays in all of our lives, starting with their own.