Soldier Recalls Life Under Don't Ask, Don't Tell

11/11/11 5:50PM By Peter Biello
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R.J. Holland
A self-portrait of Army Photographer Robert Jesse Holland.
(Host) A gay soldier from the Northeast Kingdom is speaking out about life under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law that was repealed this year. VPR’s Peter Biello has more…

(Biello) U.S. Army combat photographer Robert Jesse Holland of Irasburg says he came out of the closet before joining the military, but went back in so he could serve.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed in September. The policy banned openly gay people from serving in the military. Speaking last night at St. Michael’s College, Holland explained how the policy forced him to lie.

(Holland) “I really couldn’t say, ‘Hey, I’m going to Cologne this weekend because they have this really big gay party, and I need a pass for that.’ They train us in the military to have these core values. Being honest and truthful, having honor and integrity. And here I am breaking at least two or three of them just trying to make sure I’m okay.”

(Biello) Holland says a few fellow soldiers did ask him if he was gay. He came out to some, a few of whom were not gay, and he was not discharged. He says the military was wrong to worry about his private sexual life.

(Holland) “There are so many other things you can be worrying about than what I do in my room when the door’s closed, not at work. Yet we have people in the military who get in trouble for spousal abuse, for drinking and driving, where people’s lives are actually at risk. And they just get a slap on the wrist, sometimes.”

(Biello) Since the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Holland says the Army has taken steps to prevent harassment of openly gay soldiers. He says he’s pleased that there was no angry backlash as a result of the repeal.

Holland is currently on leave and returns to Afghanistan next week.
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