DENVER (CBS4) – With a stroke of President Obama’s pen the 17-year-old “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy is history. Gays will soon be able to serve openly in the military.
CBS4 investigator Rick Sallinger spoke with someone who was deeply affected by the policy. John Kelly’s story goes back to the 1960s. He cried and felt vindication on Wednesday. He was a male nurse in the military who knew if his sexual leanings got out then, he was out.
Kelly lived the lie for 8 years the U.S. Air Force. Gay and almost caught, it happened while serving in North Africa.
“The person I had the encounter with was being investigated,” Kelly said. “The room was wired, I was investigated and fortunately cleared.”
It was under a provision dealing with sexual experimentation called “Queen for a Day.” Back then one would be dishonorably discharged. Next came Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
In 2006 CBS4 sent an employee to see a recruiter to see how it worked.
Employee: “Would it be a problem if I was gay?”
Recruiter: “There’s a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, so I’m going to act like I didn’t hear that … but no absolutely not … you can’t walk around with a girlfriend, okay, you can’t walk around with a tattoo ‘I’m a lesbian.'”
Those who got it in had to hide in plain sight, like one Colorado soldier CBS4 interviewed.
“I have to hide every single thing about my personal life … I’ve had to make up my girlfriend just so it’s believable,” the soldier said.
Now gays will be allowed to serve with honor.
“You can’t go back and take those dishonorable discharges back,” Kelly said. “But you can give those people their respect and honor back, and they got it today.”
It will take several months at least before it can be implemented.