Posted by: Staff | 11.11.2010

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Forum Experience

SOPHIE DIETZ ’11
The Tuesday forum that I experienced October Sixth was unlike any forum I have had the chance to attend in my time at Beaver.

Travis Hengen, fourth from right, visits Scott Brown's office

This last Tuesday Travis Hengen, former U.S. soldier, came to speak to the students and faculty about the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.The “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy was put in place by the U.S. Military to restrict homosexuals from openly serving in the military. The policy prohibits anyone who intends to engage in homosexual acts from serving in the U.S. armed forces. It also restricts troops from talking about their sexuality, or “outing” one another. This policy was created to ensure that the morale of the unit would not be risked.

During the forum, Hengen opened up to us, let his walls down, and told us about the policy. He reminisced on his time in the army with happiness, anger, and most of all sadness. After the forum, I was not satisfied. I wanted to hear more and the Q&A with Travis that following Friday allowed me the chance to do so. We all sat around a small table in the green room like a group of old friends.

“What do you think the reasoning behind ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ is? Is it because of ignorance or acceptance?” I asked Hengen. He explained that the opposing argument that allowing homosexuals to openly serve in the military will ruin unit cohesion and moral. The military operates under a different set of laws called the Uniform Code of Military Justice; they are allowed to develop their own laws and practices to ensure what is best for the mission.

He also mentioned something that surprised me; Hengen told us that Senator Brown thought that gay men living and showering with straight men would ruin the morale of the unit. Since Hengen was not comfortable living with this secret he decided to come out to his superior. Hengen’s superior and unit members were very accepting of his orientation; however Hengen was still discharged. When it comes to DADT, one can be discharged honorably (meaning that they go to a superior or unit general and come out) or dishonorably (meaning they come out but also profess having acted upon it).

Travis Hengen in Uniform

Dishonorable discharge can result in arrest. Given different circumstances, Travis Hengen would give a lot to go back to the army and protect our country. Today, he is working hard as an activist in D.C to protect LGBTs serving in the military, but their rights are still to be determined. Should the government be allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military? Or is it a detriment to the unit and morale the U.S. military has worked hard to put in place?

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