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Military mess

A few stories about the military…

[UPDATE: including the latest discharge, of Bleu Copas.]

Army Dismisses Gay Arabic Linguist ‘Outed’ By Anonymous Email Campaign

Yes, more skills flushed away all because of fear of TEH GAY. (SLDN):

The U.S. Army recently discharged a highly regarded Arabic linguist who was the target of an anonymous email ‘outing’ campaign. Former Sergeant Bleu Copas was stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., and was a member of the prestigious 82nd Airborne Division. A decorated Sergeant who received impressive performance reviews, Copas also performed in the 82nd Airborne Chorus. His dismissal, under the federal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel, brings the total number of Arabic language specialists dismissed under the ban to at least fifty-five. Neither Copas nor his command know who was the source of the email campaign.

Look at the insane line of questioning Copas was subjected to when investigators probed about his homosexuality.

The command-appointed investigating officer interviewing Copas asked such questions as, “Do you work off duty with the local community theater?” and “Do you know or are you aware of anyone who believes you are a homosexual?” He also recommended conducting “an inquiry…into the possibility of further homosexual conduct by member(s) of the (unit).” Despite never learning who made the original allegations against him, Sergeant Copas was dismissed from the Army in January.

Jeezus. Community theater?

Copas, btw, sang the national anthem at Servicemembers Legal Defense Network’s 14th Annual National Dinner.

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Fed judge dismisses DADT lawsuit

“Within the military context, she did not draw attention to her sexual orientation, and her colleagues value her contribution to their unit and apparently want her back. She has served her country faithfully and with distinction…[But] Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell represents a rational response to a legitimate government concern [for unit cohesion].”
— U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton, in his ruling dismissing a lawsuit by Maj. Margaret Witt regarding her discharge under DADT

This is a ridiculous ruling — yet another reason why Massachusetts Congressman Marty Meehan’s Military Readiness Enhancement Act (H.R. 1059), which now has about 120 supporters, needs to pass. It has bi-partisan support. Witt was outed based on an anonymous tip that she was gay and in a relationship — that led to an investigation which resulted in her discharge. (365gay):

A lesbian colonel, dismissed from the military because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has lost her bid for reinstatement in the Air Force Reserve.

A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit by Maj. Margaret Witt.

Witt, 42, of Spokane, had asked U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton to reinstate her, to find DADT unconstitutional. Her ACLU lawyers argued that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down a Texas anti-sodomy law prevented the military from using private consensual acts between two people of the same sex as grounds for dismissal.

Leighton ruled that the sodomy ruling had no bearing on the military.

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Myspace becomes Pentagon recruiting ground

How sorry and desperate is this — Marines trolling for recruits on MySpace. The Marine Corps MySpace profile is reaching out to its target audience with streaming video of recruits in boot camp and Marines storming beaches. (AP):

“It is where prospects are,” said Louise Eaton, media and Web chief for the U.S. Army Accession Command. “We go to where they are to try to inform them of the opportunities we offer.”

…Web surfers who open the Marines’ MySpace page can click on a tab titled “Contact a Recruiter.” This directs them to the Marines.com site where they are prompted to fill out a form with their name, address and phone number so recruiters can arrange to meet them.

So far over 430 people have asked to contact a Marine recruiter through the site in the five months since the page went up, including some 170 who are considered “leads” or prospective Marine recruits.

Obviously they need to try any and all tactics to get the warm bodies into uniform. After all, other branches of the military have resorted to lowering standards and recruiting people with antisocial personality disorder, autism, as well as welcoming in folks convicted of aggravated assault, robbery, vehicular manslaughter, receiving stolen property and making terrorist threats.

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Iraq vets coming home looking for work

And when the young veterans of Iraq eventually make it home, they have trouble landing decent jobs. It’s a pretty cruel irony since all those recruiting commercials you see tout all the experience one is going to receive for serving, implying you’ll be a marketable commodity once your active duty is completed. That was true in the past, but not now.

Last year, about one in six veterans between 20 and 24 was jobless, nearly double the rate for nonveterans their age. It was brighter in the second quarter of this year, when young vets had an 11.2 percent jobless rate, but that was still higher than the 8 percent for nonvets their age and more than twice the overall unemployment rate.

Labor and veterans officials are surveying young vets to try to find out why. But experts have some theories:

* Some veterans are entering the work force for the first time and aren’t adept at explaining their military skills to civilian employers.

* Some who saw combat in Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, which makes it difficult for them to work and makes employers leery of hiring them.

* Permanent jobs that offer middle-class wages and benefits are scarcer these days in some regions.

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The new homeless vets

And in another kick to the gut, Iraq is generating a new generation of homeless veterans. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans notes the VA itself estimates 200,000 veterans are homeless on any given night and the government is not only doing precious little, it is cutting back services.

Paul Rieckhoff, an Iraq War veteran (and founder and exec director of IAVA: Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, wrote about the growing numbers of Iraq veteran homeless (400 and rising).

Without a comprehensive support system for returning vets, it’s no wonder so many troops are failing to successfully transition from military to civilian life. Our troops are in Baghdad one week and Brooklyn the next. The shift from soldier to civilian in a matter of days is not an easy one to make. According to the Army’s latest figures, approximately one-in-three Iraq veterans will have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or other mental health issues. Throughout the war, that percentage has risen, and experts predict that trend will continue for decades, just like in Vietnam.

These veterans aren’t getting the support they need because the Department of Veterans’ Affairs is dangerously under funded. Despite outcry from every major veterans’ organization in America, funding for the VA is still not mandatory. This means that every year, veterans’ groups have to battle with politicians to get the funding they need. For 2007 alone, veterans’ groups from Disabled American Veterans to the Veterans of Foreign Wars are urging Congress to increase the Administration’s budget by more than $2 billion.

Faced with this budget shortfall, VA hospitals across the country are reducing their services — even as 18,000 wounded Iraq vets will return seeking care, and hundreds of thousands are seeking mental health treatment. One IAVA member veteran from Virginia Beach seeking treatment at his local VA was told recently that he would have to wait three months for an appointment with a counselor because, “all of you guys are coming home.”

Related:
* Facts and figures about homeless vets

National Coalition for Homeless Veterans
333½ Pennsylvania Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20003-1148
E-mail: Emailnchv@nchv.org
Toll Free: 800.VET.HELP
Fax: 202.546.2063
Toll Free Fax: 888.233.8582

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Meanwhile, in other, less-depressing military-related news…

Sir Ian McKellan breaks Pentagon DADT policy. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell went out the window inadvertently when the openly gay actor was given the honorary rank of lieutenant colonel in the National Guard while in Georgia for the press tour of The Da Vinci Code.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding