Veteran's tears reflect progress

I was talking to a Vietnam vet -- who happens to be a member of the gay community -- about the repeal of the federal "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" rules for military service. When this Michigan native got the news the ban had been lifted, he just sat down and cried.

These were no tears of sadness, he said, but of complete joy. All those years served in the Armed Forces -- 24 to be exact -- and all those years he carried around a secret.

If anyone knew his sexual orientation as an active duty soldier, there would have been repercussions: at best, discharge; at worst, of making his life a living hell. Back then, he was forced to keep his personal life concealed and separate from his comrades in the field. He never thought, he said, he would ever live to see the day when servicemen and women could serve their country as openly gay soldiers.

While reports of victory celebrations surface, there are still fierce opponents. Despite the victory, transition will not come easy. Sometimes it takes longer for a conservative institution based on tradition to adapt to new policy, but, at least for now, people have a choice -- to come out, or not.

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