Retired Navy Captain Tells Of Secret Life Under “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”
Joan E. Darrah served as a Navy intelligence officer for almost 30 years. She is the recipient of several wards including three Legion of Merits, three Meritorious Medals and the Navy Achievement Medal. She’s been with her partner, Lynn Kennedy, for 19 years.
For most of my career in the Navy, I lived two lives and went to work each day wondering if that would be my last. Whenever the admiral would call me to his office, 99.9 percent of me was certain that it was to discuss an operational issue. But there was always that fear in the back of my mind that somehow I had been “outed,” and he was calling me to his office to tell me that I was fired. So many simple things that straight people take for granted could have ended my career, even a comment such as “My partner and I went to the movies last night.”
The events of September 11, 2001 changed Darrah’s perspective, and she never lost her love of country.
Ironically, it was in the military that I learned to work with people of different backgrounds, different religions, different ethnicities and different skin colors and to focus on getting the mission accomplished. I learned the importance of respecting everyone and judging people on their performance and abilities, not on a preconceived prejudice.
Twenty-six countries allow gays to serve openly in their militaries, and from all reports, things are going just fine. This is the right step for our country, our military and for gay people both currently serving and those who would like to be part of the world’s finest military. I have great love and respect for our country, but I know we can do better than “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
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