Saturday, November 7, 2009

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Part II

After arriving in Germany, I learned many things.

I learned that most single guys in the military would rather hang in the dorm drinking beer on week-ends. And listening to "Dark Side of the Moon" over and over on their latest electronic score at the Base Exchange. And becoming morose over the fact that they couldn't be doing this back in Arkansas. Then, drinking more beer. And, I'll admit, the beer was damn good. But hey, you're in Europe, get out of the freakin' dorm!

I learned that there were many of us that wanted to experience this opportunity we were given. Frankfurt 30 minutes away, Munich 2-1/2 hours, Paris 3, Amsterdam 4. All in the comfort of a fast efficient train, where you could drink that great beer while cruising alongside the Rhein River, by Medieval castles, or through multi-colored tulip fields that went on forever.

There was a group of us that became a family during our tenure there. There were about 30 of us who regularly traveled, sometimes 12 at a time, sometimes 4. We all had jobs that sent us all over Europe, so when we could arrange to get together and travel, we did it with gusto. My first purchase at the Base Exchange wasn't the newest Infinity speakers or a big-screen TV, it was a 35mm camera with all the gadgets.

This family was composed of many individuals. We all just naturally gravitated together. About half were gay. One quarter straight couples. The rest single heteros. And we all got along famously. We had fabulous parties off-base. We visited the best restaurants in town and learned the language. Us gays were welcomed and welcoming, unlike our bosses on base.

The lesbians in our family were fairly stereotypical, in that most had short hair, never wore dresses, and played on the softball team. They were also the cream of the crop in their job fields, winning many Airman/NCO of the Quarter awards (as did I) and were admired for their professionalism. But, there were a few who felt threatened by them. Some were insecure when turned down for a date or a quick romp in the hay. One of my friends was also gang-raped, and all was made hush-hush. If she would have pressed charges, her sexuality would have been exposed. Unfortunately, her secret was exposed in another heinous way.

This was all before "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was instituted by Bill Clinton. The Commanders had many tools at their disposal to ferret out the homosexuals and send them packing. One that they used to great advantage was the piss test. If the base security found out you went to Amsterdam for the week-end, you were invited to the pee party. Which is why my group would keep the trips to Amsterdam quiet. Not that we were big hash-hounds or anything, but every once in awhile we might partake at a party.

So, one day a lesbian friend of mine was called to the Base Commander's office. She had won an NCO of the Quarter award previously and she thought that she might be up for NCO of the Year. And didn't know what was to befall her and her lover.

It seems an acquaintance of hers on the softball team got busted in a random piss test. In those days, and maybe even today, when you were caught in that way, you were interrogated. Long and hard. She was pressured for hours and was told that they would go "easy" on her if she gave them some names. Names of dopers, homosexuals, or anyone doing something against the Code of Military Conduct. And she broke. And gave the names of every gay she could think of (but not the dopers since she was straight). Which snared 3 of my best friends in the world. And changed forever how I felt about being in the military and serving my country.

(To be continued)