Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Reflections and Chelsea Manning

No one who surfs the news reports can turn a blind eye to all the comments published about Chelsea Manning and I can imagine a whole series of question about her timings to tell the world she will now live her life as Chelsea.  I do not believe that her timing to 'come out' now, now that she will be living the rest of her life in prison, was an attempt to elicit sympathy.

I too am a combat veteran having served in Vietnam from June 67 to June 68 and decided to get out after my first 3 years in December of 68.  It was seven years later that I decided to re-enlist and complete my 20 years and get out.  All I wanted to do was to play music but the Army promoted me to E-8 and I was appointed as First Sergeant of the post band at Fort Bliss, Tx.  As the First Sergeant one must follow and enforce Army Regulations even if you don't like what you have to do.

So when a soldier who served under me was charged by his wife of dressing and demanding sex, which was considered "Conduct Unbecoming", the Commander proceeded to court-martial the young man and kick him out of the service. He was a great clarinet player and an otherwise outstanding soldier who served as a Marine before he changed services; but I had to stand with the Commander and process this good soldier out of the Army.  My moral integrity began to crumble that day. I was dressing in my own home at the time, feeling my own feminine pull and I resented what I did that day. That was the day my moral ethics collided with Army Regulation and Standards of Conduct I swore an Oath to protect and enforce.
Wedding Day

It was only after I was selected as a student for the next Sergeant's Major Class and I was tasked to teach the "Military Ethics" Class that I realized that; 1) I did not want to be in that class, 2) I just wanted to play music and encourage those around me to be better musicians, 3) the Army wanted me to continue to violate and ignore my ethics and principles to enforce their policies and 4) that I was not a very "good" First Sergeant and could not serve as a Sergeant Major with my set of ethical values.

And so events unfolded which resulted in my be summarily discharged from the Academy and 'Retired' with less then 20 year active federal military service.  It was years later, that my wife divorced me and I took the opportunity to complete my transition from male to female.

I kind of understand the moral angst to "right" some thing's that we see and feel to be wrong, but it would be a difficult decision for me to release information that might compromise lives and the National Security not knowing all the information and facts.  And being outed by the Army, forced her hand, as it were, to come clean and live a life without secrets.