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Feb-02-2010 22:19TweetFollow @OregonNews
Veterans Demand End of 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' Policy for GaysTim King Salem-News.com
"Right now we need every man on deck, we can't be picking and choosing unless we're going to bring the draft back" -Mario Benfield, American Legion Post 448
(SAN FRANCISCO) - "We're the largest gay and lesbian war veteran post in the country. I'm former Marine Corps, I got out of the Marine Corps as an E-5, a sergeant, and my primary was 0341 which was mortars, I had a fantastic tour in the Marine Corps."
Mario Benfield is the past commander of the only American Legion post whose membership is predominantly gay and lesbian, American Legion Post 448 in San Francisco.
Benfield says he and other veterans are sick of President Bill Clinton's 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' policy that bans gays from military service if they are honest about their private lives. It has led to more than 50,000 individuals receiving less than honorable discharges.
He says there was plenty of discipline in the Corps, but there was also privacy when he was in, which vanished in the years since Benfield served. Benfield says under the old system, as a Marine, it was all business, but when liberty began it was a different story.
"But then at liberty, when you were on your own, then you were free to exercise your recreational situation. We are elated that the President has finally come out and addressed the Joint Chiefs of Staff and said, 'It's the right thing to do', and for us we really have looked forward to this time when we don't have to be ostracized and this witch hunt."
He believes that the right thing to do is to, "Ask those servicemembers if they would like to come back in after they were discharged, and that their record be cleaned of an other than honorable discharge because they are gay or lesbian."
Benfield and other veterans are becoming more brazen, they say they won't stop until changes are in place. He says this is in fact the worst possible time for the military to exercise homophobia.
"Right now we need every man on deck, we can't be picking and choosing unless we're going to bring the draft back."
It is interesting that Pres. G.W. Bush lowered standards for military entrance, allowing the inclusion of criminals and very low intelligence individuals in the military, but that no changes have been made regarding the service of gays and lesbians.
The last time the general entrance standards were lowered, was at the height of the Vietnam War, shortly before the infamous war crimes that claimed the lives of several hundred Vietnamese civilians in a single day.
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