Idaho Soldier Serving from the Closet. DADT Repeal Doesn’t Lift All Burdens

Boise Weekly City Desk Jody May-Chang

By Jody May-Chang
Originally published on Dec. 30, 2010

Despite the recent repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the policy remains in effect for several more months at least, leaving an estimated 65,000 active duty military service members still vulnerable for discharge for being gay, lesbian or bisexual.

One Idaho soldier now serving in Afghanistan as a combat medic is risking more than her life for her country. She is risking discharge because she is also a lesbian.

To protect her identity Citydesk will refer to her only as “Savanna,” which is not her real name.

“My time in service has been rough,” said Savanna. “I was aware of the DADT policy, but I don’t believe now that any soldier who DADT directly affects really understands how difficult, mentally and emotionally, hiding their true identity will be until it’s too late to turn back.”

“During basic training,” Savanna recounted, “a small group of lesbians were unfairly blamed for being ‘too close’ to who was obviously a lesbian drill sergeant. I am thankful to have had a First Sergeant who stood for what he believed was right. He pulled each of the trainees facing the indiscretion aside and helped us to send home anything that could be perceived to be against the DADT policy (letters, pictures etc.) before the investigation began.”

“I am willing to die for my country. Who I go home to at night and who I love should hold no substance,” she said. Continue reading

One-on-One Interview: Fehrenbach Flying High Since DADT Repeal

By Jody May-Chang ©2010

Lt. Col. Victor FehrenbachBorn on Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio where his father was a navigator and his mother a nurse, Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach was essentially born to serve.

After giving his entire adult life to the Air Force as a combat pilot, this highly decorated war hero has been grounded and sitting behind a desk for the last two and a half years.

After being outed as gay by a civilian, Fehrenbach learned, Sept. 11, 2008 his commander recommended him for separation from the U.S. Air Force under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, (DADT).

Today however, the elated Fehrenbach no longer needs his jet to fly since President Obama signed the repeal of DADT into law Dec 22. Stationed at Mountain Home AFB since 2007, Fehrenbach talked to this reporter the next day about his turbulent journey.

The day of the Senate vote (Dec. 18), “I was actually in the Senate chamber,” said Fehrenbach. “I was counting on my fingers as we went.” Suspecting 61 votes and perhaps some surprises, he knew it was in the bag when his senator, George Voinovich (R-OH), voted yes.

“I knew then it would defiantly pass the 60 mark and I knew it was over.” The final vote was 65 to 31.“Gosh, there was probably ten minutes where I was extremely emotional,” Fehrenbach recalled. Continue reading

Senate Votes to Repeal DADT

Boise Weekly City Desk Jody May-Chang

By Jody May-Chang
Originally published on Dec. 18, 2010

In a historic move, the U.S. Senate passed the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell by a 65 to 31 vote this afternoon. Once signed into law by President Barack Obama, the 17-year ban on gay and lesbian members of the military to serve openly will be over.

Republicans who voted in favor of repeal were Senators Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Susan Collins and Olympia Snow of Maine, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and George Voinovich of Ohio. Republicans who were not present for the vote were Jim Bunning of Kentucky, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

“This is incredible news for equality and justice. We commend the senate for repealing this discriminatory and unconstitutional policy known as Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” said ACLU of Idaho Executive Director Monica Hopkins. “This is a huge win for civil rights here in Idaho. We have to remember there are many Idahoans serving in the armed forces, and now they can be judged on the content of their character and their skills as soldiers. It opens up their work environment to live openly and honestly, which is one of the core values of our armed services.” Continue reading