Don’t Ask Me Not To Tell: A Soldier’s Story

By Michael L. Counter, Jr. – Dallas South News Intern

I, Michael L. Counter, Jr. do solemnly swear that I will 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 the regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, so help me God.

I took the oath of enlistment in the winter of 2006. I stood with my right hand held high, sincere, and with as much conviction as one could muster for having endured seven weeks of Basic Military Training.  Men with whom I had trained stood beside me.

We shot M-16s together.

We shined boots & clipped strings from uniforms together.

We did push-ups until our arms ached together.

We cried together.  We pledged to end injustice together.

Our lives were forever linked as soldiers of the United States Armed Forces. We pledged to maintain the integrity of our mission, our society, and one another. Integrity first. We truly were the “Band of Brothers” that is often talked about. I learned to trust the man with whom I bunked.

He knew about my dad’s hugs & mom’s tuna casserole. I knew that the Air Force was his only option after high school because his mom needed help to take care of his two younger brothers.

He knew about my baby sister’s headstrong attitude, and I knew he loved Van Halen and Tupac.

I knew he had a girlfriend whom he would marry after Basic Training, but he did not know that I was involved in a long-term relationship with Marcus, my boyfriend from college. He did not know that Marcus & I had known each other for two years before dating. He did not know that I was gay.

He never asked. And I never told. Don’t ask, don’t tell…right?

To take an oath of integrity knowing that my total integrity was not encouraged weighed heavy on my shoulders, but I learned to cope. I compromised and internalized the code: “service before self.”

The mission is the most important item on every day’s agenda. I told myself that I did not have to bring my personal life to work, even while my peers spoke about their one-night stands & girlfriends back home.

I volunteered to be the designated driver because the opportunity to get chopped and screwed iwasn’t necessarily afforded to me & those like me. No one wanted to hear about  which base I got to. They never asked. I never told.

I met other men like me in uniform. Some older, some younger. Many officers -much more highly ranked than I- were nice enough to instruct me on how ‘we’ were to operate most efficiently.

There were men & women like me who were married and agreed on the parameters of their arrangement. They would attend formal functions together even though they lived separate lives. They said men like me were luckier than the straight soldiers who could speak of their girlfriends and boyfriends and bedroom happenings in the office.

Men like me “had standards” they said, and we understood how inappropriate this office banter truly was. I watched men like me teaching each other how to get rid of their ‘swish’ so that they would be more uniformed. There were places off-base where men like me could meet and be safe.

While none of this was easy, one of the truly difficult parts was ignoring my peers & superiors calling the enemy ‘sand faggots’, which still upsets me because it is blatantly homophobic,and also because it is too close to ‘sand niggers’. Still… they never asked and I never told.

I read articles and saw posters hoping to improve recruiting. I saw recruiters visit schools promising to assist fatties to fitness. The Armed Forces offered to help a man who could not readily perform the tasks needed for our mission. You know, all of those tasks that we do before 9am…more than what most people do all day.  But a man like me, with less than 8% body fat and a college degree could not be an asset to the military because of how he loved .

I listened to briefings that told me to report foul language and poor messages that were not acceptable to the Armed Forces standard of living. But men like me heard the same things over and over:

Only faggots ratted out their bros.

Only faggots were too sensitive to words.

Terrorists were faggots and we had to kill those faggots.

We had to protect our country and our families from those faggots.  But what of those of us who knew that ‘faggot’ was an evil pejorative meant to instill fear and humiliate a group of people? They didn’t ask. We never told.

As a veteran of the United States Air Force on the heels of Veteran’s Day 2009, I pray for the day when men & women like me are recognized as human beings as we go marching off to fight for a country that wishes to pry its way into our bedrooms or liken us to a terrorists. We should not have to fight a war overseas in order to win our country’s approval stateside. Repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is long overdue.

President Obama and the United States Armed Forces see that Uncle Sam isn’t bringing home the bacon. Recruitment is down, and the show must go on. Numbers don’t lie and Osama ain’t gonna turn himself in. America now needs men & women like me -though over 13, 000 gay men (and counting) have been dishonorably discharged because apparently with all of those penises on the battlegrounds, we can’t think straight. FYI, the War on Terrorism is not in my pants or in my bedroom.

It’s abhorrent that America doesn’t realize the need for men & women like me. Our loved ones, too, were in the towers on 9/11. We fight to protect our partners, wives, husbands, and children. We take an oath knowing that we may return home in body bags. But I guess a body bag is a privilege we are not yet afforded because body bags contain people; and our country does not fully acknowledge that we are indeed people. And although no one wants to ask, I am telling you America men & women like me will still lay down our lives to protect our country, even though we are not yet acknowledged by it.

Some may think that men and women like me want to end the war with hugs and kisses, or celebrate with Uncle Sam sporting his best drag queen fashion while performing Beyonce’s “Single Ladies.” Some say poverty, the recession, and endless unemployment opportunities are surely God’s punishment for homosexuality. It has nothing to do with the greed and hate spread in his name. Don’t worry, America. Your secret is safe with too many. If he doesn’t ask, I won’t tell.

Michael L. Counter, Jr. is a Dallas South News intern. He attends Midwestern State University and is completing his Bachelor’s degree in English with a focus in media studies.

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Edited by Shawn Williams

Dave Levinthal Leaving Dallas Morning News

I was shocked to hear that Dallas Morning News City Hall reporter Dave Levinthal will be leaving the paper.  When so many good journalists are being forced out of the paper business, its just as bad to see one leave on his on volition.

“Today is my final day in the office, reporting for the paper,” says Levinthal on the City Hall blog.  “I’ll soon head east, to Washington, D.C., where I begin a new career playing an old role: independent government watchdog,” he says.

I saw Dave working at the City Council inauguration on yesterday.  I didn’t say anything to him because I figured I’d see him at a subsequent presser or event.  Not the case this time.

Levinthal was one of my three favorite writers left at the Morning News.  His excellent writing and thorough coverage will be missed.  I wish Dave the best in his future endeavors.

Kevin Ross: Don Imus/Fairness Doctrine 2.0 (Part 4 of 5)

Don Imus Was Gone… And Then POOF, He Was THERE AGAIN

BY KEVIN ROSS

When acerbic radio personality Don Imus created the “nappy-headed ho’” firestorm after his 2007 comments about Rutgers women’s basketball team sparked universal outrage, mainstream media was suddenly looking for insight from self-appointed and elected black leaders. The Reverend Jesse Jackson, who himself has a syndicated program, mentioned that political talk shows don’t have minorities as their main hosts, (para) “It’s all white… all night.”

Those partial comments came on the heels of MSNBC snatching Imus from his morning cable show and then teeing up possible replacements. KABC’s Elder was given the opportunity to “tryout” for a week.

Afterwards, no other African American was afforded the courtesy of auditioning to be a talking head. Not one.

Ultimately congressman turned media personality Joe Scarborough got the gig (along with Bill O’Reilly’s old slot on KABC) and black screenwriter John Riley became part of the morning team briefly before quickly fading off the scene.

As for Imus, he was back on the air after a year with an undisclosed financial settlement from CBS. KABC is the current radio home for the cantankerous sexagenarian, who has seen his clout and his national ratings only slightly diminish since the incident.

The upside is Imus now has two African American as part of his morning crew. Bravo, considering in all likelihood they would be collecting unemployment benefits alongside other black hosts who know first-hand how tough it is to land a gig in the current climate.

Even at stations where non-whites are employed as talk show hosts, tokenism seems to triumph. Meyers reports states, “There may be ‘a’ black talk show host, but seldom blacks, and Latinos, and Asians among the talk show host line-ups on the stations that broadcast all-day and into the night and even into the wee hours of the morning. Whether commercially-sponsored or listener, corporate funded, these AM radio stations possibly perceive minority talk show hosts either as hard to find or not available– or as not “as qualified” or “as entertaining” as the Caucasians they consistently employ.”

That argument is also being advanced in sports talk, where athletes of color in fields including basketball, football, baseball and soccer take center stage. For better or worse, these shows talk about these athletes, but rarely are minorities leading the discussion. Two notable exceptions are The Michael Irvin Show, hosted by the former Dallas Cowboy star, and The 2 Live Stews, featuring Doug and Ryan Stewart. Both are intent on muscling their way onto the scene with impressive results. But these developments may not do enough to placate talk radio junkies fired up with “Yes We Can” audacity.

And their discontent will only become increasingly impolite as the simmering battle playing out between President Barack Obama and Limbaugh, gathers steam.

fAIRNESS DOCTRINE 2.0

Radio personality Bill Press has opined that the ongoing Commander in Chief versus the King of Talk slugfest is Exhibit A why Congress should re-enact the Fairness Doctrine, the federal ruling to insure that different voices are able to speak with equal force and influence on matters of public discourse. Having recently lost his syndicated spot on OBAMA AM 1260 AM in Washington D.C., here’s a recent exchange between Press and US Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI):

PRESS: Yeah, I mean, look: They have a right to say that. They’ve got a right to express that. But, they should not be the only voices heard. So, is it time to bring back the Fairness Doctrine?

STABENOW: I think it’s absolutely time to pass a standard. Now, whether it’s called the Fairness Standard, whether it’s called something else — I absolutely think it’s time to be bringing accountability to the airwaves. I mean, our new president has talked rightly about accountability and transparency. You know, that we all have to step up and be responsible. And, I think in this case, there needs to be some accountability and standards put in place.

PRESS: Can we count on you to push for some hearings in the United States Senate this year, to bring these owners in and hold them accountable?

STABENOW: I have already had some discussions with colleagues and, you know, I feel like that’s gonna happen.

Yep.

Locally, Press broadcasts on KTLK AM 1150 with comedian Stephanie Miller, Randy Rhodes, and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. The Clear Channel station – to their credit – has the most women on the L.A. airwaves. And we’re not talking sidekicks.

And yet KTLK’s “left leaning” ideology doesn’t square up with their hosts daily diatribes about how the Republican Party is this “bastion of out-of-touch white men” when everyone at KTLK Monday through Friday is also white.

So for all the hand-wringing Press engages in over the Fairness Doctrine, his angst completely obfuscates the issue that even “liberal” talk outlets can’t reconcile.

Rush Limbaugh’s assertion that traditional radio should not be regulated is actually a sound argument. The Fairness Doctrine would negatively impact an already challenged industry in tuned to what its audience wants. The real issue is one of opportunities missed, and industry leaders having enough foresight and introspection to not only say “What are we doing?” but “Why are we continuing to do it?”

Look at Sirius XM, a satellite company whose stock is trading at 12 cents a share, is potentially facing a hostile takeover, and likely will file bankruptcy because of an inability to pay a $175 million debt payment due on February 17. What will this mean for the likes of Oprah Winfrey and friends and other shows featuring minorities? Don’t look to the NAACP, in the midst of their centennial celebration, for answers.


Even Radio One, the largest radio broadcast company targeting African Americans and urban listeners, just dropped Reverend Al Sharpton and Warren Ballentine from their roster as they pair down. Within the last 18 months, Radio One has gone from owning 70 stations to 52 in 16 markets.

Kevin Ross is noted Republican who hosts The Kevin Ross Show, a conservative political show on Blog Talk Radio and blogs at Three Brothers and a Sister. This post is part of a five part series exploring the lack of diversity in radio.

Dallas South spending Presidential Inauguration at Southside on Lamar event

My family and I will be wathching the swearing in of the 44th President of the United States at the Southside on Lamar this Tuesday. This free event is hosted by Jan Gore, owner and operator Texas Caribbean Foods.

Anyone who wants to share in this wonderful experience can call Ms. Gore at 214.485.7040. Seating is limited, so you have to RSVP in order to ensure that you have a seat. Tell her that Dallas South sent you and I’m sure she’ll treat you right. Doors open at 10 AM.

Southside on Lamar Blue Room

1409 S. Lamar

Dallas TX 75215

214.485.7040

Hennessy is also sponsoring an Inauguration Watch Celebration at the Studio Movie Grill in Addison. The cost of this event is $15 for general seating and $30 for VIP seating.

THE 2009 INAUGURAL
WATCH CELEBRATION

January 20, 2009

11am-2pm

@
Studio Movie Grill Addison
5405 Belt line Rd. Dallas, TX 75248

For more info call 214-915-9936 or 214-676-6690

Proceeds will go towards Paul Quinn College

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) is calling for a United Nations investigation into Israel’s attacks on Gaza

According to TheHill.com, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) is calling for a United Nations investigation into Israel’s attacks on Gaza for what he sees as a disproportionate response to Hamas rocket attacks.  Here are highlights from the article posted by

  • The criticism stands in stark contrast to the statements of other Democrats, who have offered near-unanimous support for Israel amid the latest violence in the Middle East.
  • Kucinich likened the Israeli attacks on Gaza to its war with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon in 2006. In both cases, he said, civilian populations were attacked and “countless innocents” were killed or injured.  “All this was, and is, disproportionate, indiscriminate mass violence in violation of international law,” Kucinich said in a statement. “Israel is not exempt from international law and must be held accountable.”
  •  Kucinich said in his statement that he had sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon requesting an independent inquiry. He said the attacks on civilians represented collective punishment, which he said was a violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

BBC discussion includes Log Cabin Republicans, North Texas Pakistani Society VP, and Dallas South

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On Monday, I had a chance to spend my lunch hour with the good folks from the BBC’s World Have Your Say Radio Program.  I’ve been on the show with host Ros Atkins three times previously, and it was nice to have the opportunity to meet him in person.

Listen to Monday’s Show here.

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Ros and the gang are on a tour across America getting a feel for what things are like during this election year.  On Sunday the Talking America Bus was in Sweetwater (Texas) checking out a solar power wind farm.

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I was pleasantly surprised to get the call Sunday Morning letting me know that they were bringing their tour bus into Dallas.  I was asked to spend lunch on the porch of Pappadeaux Restaurant on Oak Lawn discussing the U.S.’s role in Pakistan.

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full-bus.jpgOne of the guests was Shanali Bhagat, Vice-President of the Pakistan Society of North Texas.  He added a lots of interesting insight on the fine line the U.S. walks between lending a hand and stepping on toes.

As always, the show was fast paced with lots of experts and callers.  I had a chance to jump in 3 or 4 times including a brief dust up with one of the Log Cabin Rupublicans.  It was fun, execpt everyone else got to stay for lunch and I had to head back to work.  To Ros and the crew in their travels….cheers.

Thanks to Janet Morrison for these great photos.

Russian actions put Bush and “Puty” at odds

In June 2001, President George W. Bush told the world that he had looked then Russian Vladimir Putin in the eye and “was able to get a sense of his soul.” So then shouldn’t Mr. Bush have sensed Prime Minister Putin’s incursion into Georgia this past week?

This conflict between Georgia and Russia is much more involved that on the surface. It would take a Russia/Soviet Union expert to give a real sense of things, but here are a few key points.

  1. Part of the conflict between Russia and Georgia centers on a small region called South Ossetia. South Ossetia is a break-away region of Georgia, which separated from Georgia in a 1991-92 war.
  2. The South Ossetia region has a population of around 70,000 (yes 7-0 thousand), 2/3 of which are ethnic Ossetians and 1/3 who are ethnic Georgians. The major religion there is Christianity.
  3. Ossetians have maintained good relations with Russians, both during the first Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. North Ossetia is already part of Russia.
  4. Russia’s anger at Georgia intensified in 2003 after Georgia’s so-called Rose Revolution, when protests against a rigged election toppled the government and set the current Georgian government on a westward course (New York Times). Russia has opposed the warming of relations between former Soviet Republics and Western Countries.

south-ossetia-map.gifPrime Minister Putin’s goal has always been to assert Russia on equal footing with the United States. Economic challenges after the collapse of the Soviet Union left Russia vulnerable, and the U.S. was immediately seen as the lone remaining “superpower.”As China continues to emerge, Russia does not want to lose its world standing or influence, especially in its own backyard.
Yesterday President Bush made threats at the man who he has nicknamed “Puty,” encouraging them to halt their military action in Georgia. One has to wonder what may have happened if Georgia had not been turned down by NATO. An attack on one NATO member is an attack on all. Maybe this military effort is why Russia was against Georgia’s hopes of formalizing their alliance with the West.

This morning, Russian President Dimitri Medvedev ordered a cease fire, even as Russian forces push further into Georgia. How the U.S. and its allies respond is still up in the air. Any UN resolution can be blocked by Russia as one of five permanent member of the body’s Security Council (China, U.S., U.K., France).

President Bush hopes of bringing Russia into the West can now be abandoned. Putin has never shown a propensity to seek U.S. approval and has always been quick to oppose American plans to expand their missile presence in Europe. While America has become deeply mired in the affairs of the Middle East, a true superpower and nuclear threat his reasserted itself on the world’s military stage.

Information from the BBC, New York Times, and Wikipedia as used in this post.

Department of Defense denies testimony on sexual assault prevention as pressure continues to mount

The blogosphere is beginning to swell with support from those who want to see changes is how the Army and the Department of Defense (DoD) handle cases of sexual assault. Dallas South first wrote about the LaVena Johnson case in mid-July, and since then an flurry of activity has taken place.

Color of Change has developed a campaign around Pfc. Johnson’s death. In a letter to their members, Color of Change writes:

  • LaVena Johnson was a 19 year old private in the Army, serving in Iraq, when she was raped, murdered, and her body was burned–by someone from her own military base. Despite overwhelming physical evidence, the Army called her death a suicide and has closed the case.
  • After two years of being denied answers and hearing explanations that made no sense, the Johnsons received a CD-ROM from someone on the inside. It contained pictures of the crime scene where LaVena died and an autopsy showing that she had suffered bruises, abrasions, a dislocated shoulder, broken teeth, and some type of sexual assault.
  • LaVena’s death is part of a disturbing pattern of cases where female soldiers have been raped and killed, and where the military has hidden the truth and labeled the deaths suicides. In virtually all cases, Congress has been slow to investigate or hold the military accountable in any way. Unfortunately, most families simply don’t have the resources, time, and psychological strength to push back.

Just last week, the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs held an oversight hearing on sexual assault.  The senior civilian in charge of Sexual Assault Prevention was not allowed to testify per the DoD.  Col. Ann Wright of TruthDig accounts this disturbing turn of events like this:

  • Rep. John Tierney, chair of the House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, angrily dismissed Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Michael Dominguez from the hearing when Dominguez said that he, the DoD chief of legislative affairs and the chief of public affairs, had ordered Dr. Kaye Whitley, chief of SAPRO, to refuse to honor the subpoena issued by the subcommittee for her appearance.
  • Full committee Chairman Henry Waxman called the DoD’s decision to prevent Whitley from testifying “ridiculous and indicating DoD is covering something up.” It could also place Whitley in contempt of Congress. Rep. Christopher Shays said the DoD’s decision was “foolish.”
  • One of the questions that would have been put to Whitley was why DoD had taken three years to name a 15-person civilian task force to look into allegations of sexual assault of military personnel. The panel was finally named early in 2008 but has yet to meet.
  • Congressman Chris Shays (R-CT), the ranking member of the oversight subcommittee, called for the formation of the task force in 2004 and noted that at the time the DoD kept telling him they were “days away from being fully operational.” Still, no comprehensive database for tracking sexual assault has been created and there continue to be large inconsistencies for how SARPO policies are implemented.
  • Rep. Elijah Cummings joined Rep. Waxman in speaking of cover-ups. Cummings raised the cases of military women who had been sexually assaulted before dying in “non-combat incidents.” He spoke specifically about Army Pfc. LaVena Johnson, who was found beaten and dead of a gunshot wound at Balad Air Base, Iraq, in a burning tent owned by the contractor KBR.

A few short weeks ago a Google search of LaVena Johnson netted relatively few results.  Now her story is being told all over the internet.  Take a moment to sign the petition hosted by Danielle Vyas of Modern Musing and or contact your  U.S. Congressperson or Senators (as I did) and let them know how you feel about how the Department of Defense is handling sexual assault.

Hat tip to Eddie Griffin of Eddie Griffin BASG for keeping me up on the developments.