Even if you’re an out and proud gay, lesbian or bisexual it would still take a lot of guts to send a letter to President Obama telling him he’s wrong for not acting more quickly on the DADT repeal. Marine Lance Cpl. Danny Hernandez however wasn’t even that when he decided to make his letter of discontent to the President not only a protest, but also his coming out to the those around him.
Discharged from the Maines nine weeks ago, 22 year old Danny sent his letter as part of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network campaign that is pushing for the repeal of DADT, and told Dallas Voice it has not only had an impact on the campaign, but also his friends:
“A lot of my friends called yesterday in shock, because it’s just something I haven’t really mentioned to anyone,”
Saying that he had been hesitant to publish the letter in any format, Hernandez said he made the decision to do so because the issue was bigger than him:
“…the more I talked to people the more I realized it is something important and something I wanted to do. Literally at the end of the day, it was just something I could step back from and say, ‘That was the right thing to do.’ And I’m comfortable with the decision I made to have that published.
“Yesterday provided a lot of growth. I’m not 100 percent comfortable with everything, but I’m a lot closer than I ever was. I think that’s the most important thing that came from yesterday, being comfortable in my own skin.”
Whilst this publicity has meant that many of his friends now know that he is gay, Hernandez still has one very important group of people to tell - his parents and family, including his younger brother,who is an active-duty Marine based in California, something he is naturally nervous about, but believes they will be supportive of.
Discussing how he came to be dismissed, Hernandez said that he got into a confrontation with some unknown Marines whilst at a bar whilst attending Officer Candidate School that lead to him admitting to them that he was gay. Scared they’d out him he confided with two friends about the altercation. Acting to tell him not to worry, these friends then went on to out him themselves leading to commanders questioning Danny on his sexuality. Not willing to lie, Danny was honest, leading to an investigation immediately beginning forcing Danny to have to leave the work he loved and move to D.C. after a job opportunity came up.
Upset at the way he’s been treated, combined with a strong desire to get back into the Marines and serve his country, Hernandez’s letter to Obama is polite, intelligent and in it’s own way moving, something in stark contrast to those chaining themselves to the White House fence, an action that Hernandez doesn’t see is the way forward:
“I don’t know if that’s in my opinion the best way to get the message across,”
We’ve seen Obama’s response to visual action (he closes the park), can doing thing more quietly, but just as powerfully, have any more of an impact?
You can read Danny’s letter in full below:
April 28, 2010
President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
I was humbled to have earned the title of U.S. Marine just two years ago – my goal since I was 14 years old. But just nine weeks ago, I was informed of my discharge under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.
Mr. President, if I could be serving my country right now – I would be. Instead, I was fired while you were my Commander and Chief.
The stories we hear of discharged service members are becoming far too common and are based around a primitive law that we should have eliminated years ago. As this injustice continues to hurt our country, we are in desperate need of your support and leadership as we work to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
After I finished my training, I was a 20-year-old reservist. I returned to school to continue working on my undergraduate degree with hopes of becoming an officer. I wish I could tell you about my distinguished service, about stories from the war overseas, or about how being a Marine has changed my perspective on life, but I can’t.
My discharge came from the fear that my sexual orientation was going to be revealed by a third party; a group of unknown Marines who threatened to use my sexuality as a way to retaliate after a dispute in a bar. I had spoken with two fellow Marines from my unit; both of whom I trusted. They calmed me, told me that it wasn’t a big deal, and reassured me that everything was going to be fine.
I returned to drill only to find out that the two Marines – the Marines I confided in — had mentioned it and word had reached my 1st Sergeant and Commanding Officer. They told the two Marines to submit written statements detailing everything I had told them.
When I walked in to my 1st Sergeant’s office the first question out of his mouth was, “Are you gay?”
I answered honestly. The investigation was now underway.
The 1st Sergeant proceeded to tell me that there was no way he could protect my privacy in the matter, citing the “grapevine,” and having no control over what people within the unit said or did. I was told by my CO to hang tight and wait to hear from the Battalion Commander.
Ultimately I was discharged, a fate I found out only through my persistent calls and emails. My dreams of being an officer had been shattered and it felt as if the world was tumbling down on me and all I could do was step aside.
Upon earning the title of Marine, I took an oath and vowed to “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” This enemy is a domestic one, and with your direction as Commander and Chief, this is a war in which we can be victorious.
“Semper Fidelis” is the Marine Corps motto meaning “Always Faithful.” Not only am I willing and anxious to go overseas, but I am prepared to pay the ultimate sacrifice in order to protect our freedoms.
I have remained faithful to my country; please be faithful to me.
LCpl. Danny Hernandez,
Category: DADT Repeal