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Tuesday, September 26, 2023


Vets take part in oral history project

A discussion on “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the role of women in combat was held Tuesday afternoon in observance of Women’s History Month.

The discussion was co-sponsored by UH’s Veterans Service Organization, the Women’s Resource Center and the LGBT Resource Center.

The event was also videotaped as part of the Veterans Oral History Project.

VSO Program Director Allen Grundy wanted to have an event where students could talk about controversial issues.

“These are topics that are readily in the news right now,” Grundy said. “These are social issues I believe need to have some kind of ear to the public.”

Everyone had an opinion about whether female service members should be allowed into combat arms.

The role of women in combat has become an ongoing issue for the military since the “War on Terror” began.

More than 200,000 women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, with 134 killed and over 700 wounded in action.

The panel was comprised of mostly female students and faculty who discussed their feelings on the topic and how women have performed similar to men on the battlefield.

“When women were on the front lines, they performed pretty admirably,” said Beverly McPhail, director of the WRC. “So there are some real life experiences when women were in combat, whether they were allowed to be or not, because the front line has sort of shifted.”

The topic moved onto the controversial DADT policy and how it has affected the military and the personnel discharged under the law.

DADT, signed into law as a compromise in 1993 by former President Bill Clinton, prohibited superiors from inquiring about a service member’s sexual orientation without credible evidence.

Service members under the law were also not allowed to openly state their sexual orientation or engage in homosexual behavior.

In December 2010, the policy was repealed by an act of Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama.

More than 14,000 service members were discharged under the law.

Advocates say the law upheld unit morale and military readiness, while opponents argued it was discriminatory and harmed the military by discharging thousands of military personnel with essential jobs, such as military intelligence personnel and linguists.

“More people are coming out, and (homosexuality) is becoming more socially acceptable, but it’s still going to take some time,” said Priscilla Benitez, human development and family studies senior.

The law may have been repealed, but it has yet to go into effect. Once the president, secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff inform Congress in writing that the military is ready to implement the repeal, sixty days must elapse from that time before the repeal can go into effect.

Economics junior and Iraq and Afghanistan War veteran Jason Gates was part of a question and answer session for the project.

He talked about his experiences with DADT and with women in combat and gave a veterans point of view on the subject.

“I don’t feel (sexual orientation) should determine whether a person should serve or not,” Gates said. “I feel they deserve the right to fight for their country or freedom just like everybody else.”

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