Gay former Marine calls policy repeal proud moment
Posted September 20, 2011
Fayetteville, N.C. — A Fayetteville man who served in the Marines when the "don't ask, don't tell" policy went into effect said Tuesday that the policy's repeal is long overdue.
Don Barefoot called the end to the 18-year policy that barred openly gay people from serving in the military the third proudest moment of his life, behind only graduating from boot camp and publicly admitting his sexual orientation.
"It's bringing integrity and honor to the military service, I think," said Barefoot, who was honorably discharged from the Marines after 2½ years.
He served with Justin Elzie, the first Marine discharged after "don't ask, don't tell" went into effect in 1993. Even before the policy, Barefoot said, life in the service for someone openly gay was difficult, if not terrifying.
"I had watched some friends of mine get beat within an inch of their lives for being gay, and the Marine Corps did nothing against it," he said.
He described how military police at Camp Lejeune kept track of personnel during off hours.
"We would go to the gay bar, and the military police would go in the parking lot and write down license plates. So, we would take cabs," he said. "Now, you can't make a bar off limits for being a gay bar."
Although some current and former military members say doing away with the policy will harm U.S. fighting forces, Barefoot and others said "don't ask, don't tell" has hurt countless people who only wanted to serve their country proudly.
"We have a lot of military people who come here for the weekends to go out for the weekends or to be themselves. I think we're going to see more openess as far as coming in your military (uniform), not so much taking it off before you get here," said Bobby Hilburn of the LGBT Center of Raleigh.
Area military recruiters couldn't say whether the policy change would affect the number of men and women enlisting, but they said they would treat everyone with dignity and respect, regardless of sexual orientation.