May 8, 2009 (Follow link above for June 29th interview)
Lt Dan Choi, who was ousted from the Army because he outed himself on Rachel Maddow on March 19th, appeared on American Morning to discuss his situation. Just saying “I am gay” is considered homosexual behavior.
Whatever your views, whatever the rules – how many American servicemembers are West Point grads, fluent in Arabic, have been in combat in Iraq (twice) and are willing to return?
Seriously. How many?
He has the choice to resign and get an honorable discharge or go in front of a board and present his case. All he has to do is ask them if the Army has enough Arab linguists.
CAROL COSTELLO: He’s an Iraq war veteran, ready to serve. He is fluent in Arabic. But the military says he’s got to go because he admitted he’s gay. Coming up, you’ll meet Lieutenant Dan Choi and hear his message to the Obama administration.
You know, with two wars being fought and the military stretched thin, one West Point graduate and officer in the Army National Guard was just told to go home because he has admitted he’s gay. Lieutenant Dan Choi is an Iraq war veteran, he is fluent in Arabic and he just received word that the military is discharging him under the don’t ask, don’t tell policy. That’s been the law since 1993 and still is today under the Obama administration.
Joining us now is Lieutenant Dan Choi. Thanks for being with us today.
LT. DAN CHOI, OPENLY GAY MEMBER OF THE MILITARY: Wonderful to be here.
COSTELLO: So the reason the military found out that you were gay is because you announced it on national television.
CHOI: Right. Well, I publicly admitted who I was. I refused to lie and to hide my identity. And because of that, they said, it doesn’t matter that you graduated from West Point. It doesn’t matter that you’re fluent in Arabic. It doesn’t matter that you went to Iraq and that want to deploy again. You know, pack your stuff and go home. You’re fired.
COSTELLO: And you got a letter in the mail, right? Is that how it happened?
COSTELLO: I want to read a bit of the letter because it sounds so cold. The title is – well, this is what it says. I’m going to read a bit to our audience. “This is to inform you that a sufficient basis exists to initiate action for the withdrawal of federal recognition in the Army National Guard for moral or professional dereliction.” And I won’t go on. But it seems so cold and business- like. So when you received that letter, how did you feel?
CHOI: A big slap in the face, really. It’s an insult to me. I mean, I raised my right hand and said I want to serve. The president, my commander in chief is going to send 21,000 troops overseas. I want to be one of those. So they slapped me in the face. But I’m really angry because they’re slapping my unit in the face and they’re saying, you know, you’re not professional enough to deal with somebody who has capabilities to serve with you.
COSTELLO: So it condemned your whole unit?
CHOI: Right. Basically, by me saying I am gay, they’re saying that that ruined the good order and discipline of the entire New York Army National Guard which is very ridiculous. From what I’ve seen, my unit has been very professional. I’m very proud of my unit. They respect all soldiers, what they can do as members of their team.
COSTELLO: Now, some people might say, you know, if you wanted to serve your country, you know, President Obama has said he does – he wants the don’t ask, don’t tell policy to go away. Why didn’t you wait?
CHOI: Right. Why didn’t I just shut up and not say anything?
CHOI: Well, the Army values teach us, have courage, take personal courage, stand up, don’t lie, be honest about who you are. In addition, you got to trust the people that are in your unit. I trusted my unit so much that they should know who I am. And they respected the fact that I trusted them that much. It actually strengthened the unit, because now we’re – hey, we’re trusting each other enough that we’re a family. We support each other. And no soldier should be isolated. No leader allows their soldier to be alone.
COSTELLO: Now, I know that your unit has been great toward you. I mean, they really get it. But you said you’re going to fight this tooth and nail.
COSTELLO: How can you fight this when, you know, it’s moving slowly through Congress and the president is not exactly moving forward on this at lightning speed.
CHOI: I have a lot – I have a couple of options. They said that you can just resign and we’ll give you an honorable discharge. You can just be quiet and go away. Or you can go up before a board and argue why you should stay in. With help from a group of legal experts, service members, legal defense network. They’ve helped a lot of soldiers go through these legal proceedings.
And I said, no, I want to prove that being in the military is something that’s good for all Americans. And I’m just one of them. There’s so many thousands of them out there. And taking a stand and being a leader is more important. Doing the right thing is more important than following a law that says, don’t ask, don’t tell. You got to hide, you got to lie.
COSTELLO: Then getting an honorable discharge.
CHOI: Right. You take the consequences. And it’s more about what your responsibilities are than what you want or what you’re comfortable with.
COSTELLO: Thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it, lieutenant.
CHOI: Thank you.
3-19 Conspiracy at the Rachel Maddow show involving Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?
3-21 Lt Dan Choi: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has got to go
5-6 Lt Dan Choi kicked out of Guard b/c he’s gay
5-7 Rachel Maddow: Lt Dan Choi re: his dismissal from the Army