June 29, 2009
Lt Dan Choi was on CNN’s American Morning discussing the impending final decision as to whether he is dismissed from the Army simply because he said “I am gay.” A West Point Grad and Arab linguist, a man who served two combat tours in Iraq and wanted to do a third, is being thrown out of the Army for something that was born with him as much as heterosexuality was to the Commander in Chief.
How does the West Point code of honor square with the silence of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?
More than 12,500 gays and lesbians – including dozens of Arabic linguists — have been forced to leave the military since DADT went into effect. And estimated 65,000 LGBT are actively serving in the Armed Forces.
Video courtesy of RAW REPLAY. First time a CNN video actually embedded. Thank you RR.
CNN Transcript [emphasis added]
JOHN ROBERTS: Well, this morning, an update to a story that we first brought you in AMERICAN MORNING. U.S. Army First Lieutenant Dan Choi, a West Point graduate, an Arab linguist who is being forced out of the military because he’s openly gay. And President Obama still has not moved on a campaign promise on getting rid of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the military.
Tomorrow, Choi is scheduled to appear before an Army retention board to make his case on why he should not be discharged.
Joining us now from San Francisco is Lieutenant Dan Choi. Dan, it’s good to talk to you this morning. Thanks for the update. What do you plan to tell the retention board tomorrow?
LT. DAN CHOI, BEING DISCHARGED FOR BEING GAY:
Well, I originally thought that I would open up in Arabic. (Speaking in foreign language.) But I heard that they’re having a hard time retaining and recruiting Arabic linguists so that might not be very fair. But seriously, I do want to tell them, and I appreciate the opportunity to tell them, that the Army values and the lessons that I learned at West Point, honesty and courage and integrity, those are the things that we don’t just give those lip service. We actually act those out in our lives and in our duty and in our jobs. We can’t just talk about it like reading it in a book and that’s enough.
ROBERTS: Yes, that’s something I wanted to ask you about. Because you talked about this in Davis, California, the California Progress Report. It had some of the quotes of what you said there. One of them was “they are firing people from their units in a time of war when you need people to serve in their country. And these people are able, capable, willing, and trained. You’re firing them for the sole basis of who they are and the sole basis of their honesty. You learn that code of honor there at West Point.” And I’m wondering, how does the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy fit in with that code of honor that was instilled in you at West Point?
CHOI: It absolutely does not fit in. And one of the most disgusting things that we see is the kind of threats that don’t ask don’t tell imposes on some of the soldiers that are honest, that are telling the truth about who they are. I’m facing an other than honorable discharge tomorrow morning simply for being honorable and saying who I am in truth. And that can really strip away a lot of the veterans’ benefits to include an education, home loan, and even veterans’ hospital and medical benefits. These benefits that I’ve earned by being a combat veteran of the Iraq war.
And so really what we’re seeing is in the face of these threats and in the face of so many immoral things, we go back on our training. And we see that having honor and having integrity, those things are important as officers, as leaders, and as Americans.
ROBERTS: At the same time, Lieutenant, you’re a member of an organization that is based on stringent rules, you broke those rules as they were written. Regardless of whether you think they’re fair or not, if you break the rules, should you suffer the consequences?
CHOI: We all know the consequences. And if you look at the risks and you take a look at what you’re up against, of course. It’s an informed decision, but more important than the consequences, more important than punishments or those fears that we might have, we take courage and we take those things very seriously of the values that we were taught. And it’s more important that we be honest with ourselves, we have integrity, and we have courage. Those are American values and they’re under assault because of immoral policies like “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Don’t ask…
ROBERTS: I was just going to say, do you have any hope that you’re not going to be discharged? Or are you just going to go there tomorrow to make a point?
CHOI: Well, I have a huge hope and a desire to continue serving in the military and, of course, whatever the outcome tomorrow, I’m going to work as hard as I can and continue marching for equality and the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and when that law does get repealed, I’ll raise my right hand one more time and I will say I’ll serve my country.
ROBERTS: All right. So just one more time, if you would for us, Lieutenant, the president has not moved on his campaign promise to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.” What do you have to say to the president this morning?
CHOI: Well, I think the time is now. We can’t wait to support our troops, we can’t wait to end immoral policies that really are an assault on everything that we stand for as Americans. So we shouldn’t wait one more day to stand up for American values.
ROBERTS: Lieutenant Dan Choi, it’s good to talk you again. We’ll be watching you very closely tomorrow, and I think we’ll have you on afterwards and find out how it went. Lieutenant Dan Choi for us this morning from San Francisco.
CHOI: Thanks, John.
ROBERTS: Thanks very much, Lieutenant.