On March 20, Liam and I were graciously invited to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Dinner in Washington D.C. by GALA member, former ND Student Body President and retired Army Colonel Tom Field ('54). If you are unaware, the SLDN is an a non-partisan, non-profit, legal services, watchdog and policy organization dedicated to ending discrimination against and harassment of military personnel affected by "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
Liam and I met Tom upon entering the
National Building Museum and we were swiftly led upstairs into a small
meeting for Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-PA) who is spearheading the
act to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Before the Congressman
came out to speak and answer questions, we met several people, including
some members of the US Naval Academy's LGBT group, USNA Out. The Middies
could not resist teasing us about ND's football losses two years running
to Navy, which I, personally, had been trying to forget about, but they
were a great bunch and we hope to sponsor some events in the future
together with USNA Out.
When Congressman Murphy spoke, he told
us about how he'd been a soldier and an instructor at West Point. With
those experiences, he learned what kind of person it takes to volunteer
to defend one's country and he said that it makes no sense that those
who make that commitment should be kicked out based upon their sexual
orientation. He pointed out the need to come together to fight this
policy. When asked how we should approach our representatives on the
question of repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," Murphy answered
that we should ask them why we shouldn't repeal a bill that has removed
13,500 willing military personnel from duty and cost the government
$1.3 billion to do so.
Later that night, a Notre Dame alumnus
received the Barry Winchell Award for Courage. Lt Col Victor Fehrenbach
('91) is a 19-year combat veteran in the United States Air Force and
has received several service decorations, including one for heroism.
Lt Col Fehrenbach was discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell,"
but chose to fight that discharge. "No one has courage alone,"
he said and then spoke about how he never would have been able to fight
this without the support of others. At first, Fehrenbach only wanted
a quick, quiet, honorable discharge, but with support, he changed his
mind and chose to fight because of how wrong this policy is and for
the others it will affect. He thanked SLDN, Congressman Murphy for their
work fighting against DADT and Rachel Maddow for her support and for
allowing him on her show to give media attention to this issue (the
video is linked below and well worth watching). He also thanked his
family. Fehrenbach hadn't come out to his family until the USAF
him. He was scheduled to go on Rachel Maddow's show on a Monday and
had a weekend to tell his family that not only that he was gay, but
also that he'd lost his job because of it. "I drop bombs for a
living," he said, "but this one was the biggest." Every
single member of his family supported his decision to fight the
and with such support, Fehrenbach had the courage to stand up and say
that his sexual orientation is irrelevant to his ability to do his job.
Lt Col Fehrenbach is a lucky man to have such a support system and we
are lucky to have him as a member of our Notre Dame family. No one has
courage alone, indeed.
- You can become a fan of Lt Col
Fehrenbach on Facebook and show him that his Notre Dame family supports
him too. The link is posted on GALA-ND/SMC's Facebook page.
- Tom Field, along with a few other
of our lovely GALA members, will be speaking on campus at StaND Against
Hate Week on Apr. 13th at 7pm - if you're in the area, definitely stop
Rachel Maddow's interview of Fehrenbach