WASHINGTON, May 30, 2012 — Every Memorial Day we commemorate the brave men and women who sacrificed their lives for our freedom, recognizing that they did not live long enough to experience the privileges that we enjoy. It is fitting that as Americans take time to recognize the valor and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform that there are servicemembers, at home and abroad, either making personal re-commitments or formally re-enlisting on or around Memorial Day.
Upon enlisting in the United States Armed Forces, each person is required by federal statute to take or affirm an oath. One of the distinct honors of an Army officer is to administer the oath to a soldier. Last year, a soldier from my unit at Fort Meade, Maryland decided to renew his commitment as a Warrior Citizen with the Army Reserve. I administered the oath at the World War II memorial on the National Mall, proud to be a part of this soldier re-committing himself to national service and defending the Constitution before his family, friends and colleagues.
In another such ceremony, the Air Force recently regained a qualified and top performing airman, Staff Sergeant Anthony Loverde. This week my friend Tony reports to the 19th Operations Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas. Tony was, and is, living proof that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” statute was a ridiculous law that was detrimental to our armed forces. When Tony was discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2008, he actually returned to work as a military contractor, doing the same job with the same airmen he served with in uniform. It is a testament to Tony’s love of country that he would not allow this discharge to stop him from serving.
In 2010, Tony was one of Log Cabin Republicans’ key witnesses in the federal trial where district court judge Virginia Phillips ruled that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was an unconstitutional violation of servicemembers’ rights to free speech and fundamental liberty. When we won, it helped pave the way for a bipartisan vote to finally allow open service by gay and lesbian patriots like Tony.
Like that fellow soldier at the World War II memorial and like every man and woman in the military, Tony once again spoke the words of the oath he took upon his initial enlistment in 2001, pledging “I support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”
Despite the challenges of service under a discriminatory law, Tony and tens of thousands of other gay and lesbian servicemembers remained committed to serving our country. Today, the successful Department of Defense implementation of open service in the United States Armed Forces encourages re-commitment to serve in a post “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” era, and opens the door for more of America’s finest to aspire to wear our uniform with pride. All servicemembers, for the first time, are able to serve both honorably and honestly, regardless of sexual orientation, and America is stronger for it.
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