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“Mission possible: the story of the repeal, don’t ask, don’t tell”
By C. Dixon Osburn
c. 2021, self-published $ 35 hardcover, paperback $ 25, Kindle $ 12.99 / 450 pages

When Senior Airman Brandi Grijalva was stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base, she spoke with a chaplain’s assistant about some of the issues she was having at home. The chaplain’s assistant said what she told him would be confidential. But when she revealed that she was a lesbian, the chaplain’s assistant no longer kept her conversation with him confidential. Grijalva, after being investigated, was released.

Craig Haack was a corporal in the Marines serving in Okinawa, Japan. Haack, who had passed training camp, felt confident. Until investigators burst into his barracks. Looking for evidence of “gay conduct,” they ransacked everything from his computers to his platform shoes. Haack was too stunned to answer when asked if he was gay.

In 1996, Lt. Col. Steve Loomis’ house was set on fire by an army soldier. The army fired the soldier who burned down Loomis’ house. You would think the military would have supported Loomis. But you would be wrong. The military fired Loomis for conduct unbecoming an officer because a fire marshal found a homemade sex tape in the ashes.

These are just a few of the rabid, poignant, sometimes absurd (platform shoes?), All too true stories told in “Mission possible: the story of the repeal, don’t ask, don’t tell” by C. Dixon Osburn.

As a rule, I don’t review self-published books. But “Mission Possible” is the astonishing exception that proves that the rules, on occasion, are meant to be broken.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) was the official United States policy regarding gays, lesbians and bisexuals serving in the military. Former President Bill Clinton announced the policy on July 19, 1993. It came into effect on February 28, 1994.

Sexual orientation was covered by the DADT. Gender identity was covered by separate regulations of the Ministry of Defense.

Congress voted to repeal the DADT in December 2010 (the House on December 15, 2010 and the Senate on December 18, 2010). On December 22, 2010, former President Barack Obama signed the repeal of the law.

The DADT banned gays, lesbians and bisexuals who were absent from serving in the US military. Under DADT, it was not allowed to ask if the military was LGB. But, the LGB soldiers couldn’t get out. They couldn’t talk about their partners, wear pictures of their girlfriends or boyfriends, or list their same-sex partner as an emergency contract.

It took almost a year for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to come into effect. On September 20, 2011, Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff “certified to Congress that the implementation of the repeal of the {DADT} policy would not no effect on military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion or recruitment and retention, ”Osburn writes.

Before DADT, LGBT people were not allowed to serve in the military. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was meant to be a compromise – a policy that would be less onerous for LGB people, but that would work for people who believed gay servicemen would destroy military readiness, morale and the cohesion of the unit. .

Like many in the queer community, I knew DADT was a horror show from the start. In the 17 years that the DADT was in effect, about 14,000 LGB servicemen were fired because of their sexual orientation, according to the Veterans Administration.

But, I had no idea how horrible “Don’t Ask, Don’t Say” was until I read “Mission Possible”.

In “Mission Possible,” Osburn, who along with Michelle Benecke co-founded the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), pulls off an almost impossible hat trick.

In a clear, vivid, and often spellbinding narrative, Osburn tells the complex story of the DADT repeal effort as well as the stories of servicemen who were bombarded with homosexual slurs, assaulted, and murdered under DADT.

Hats off to SLDN, now known as the Modern Military Association of America, for their heroic work to repeal the DADT! (Other LGBTQ + organizations have worked on the repeal effort, but SLDN has done the lion’s share of the work.)

You wouldn’t think that a 450-page document on repealing a policy would keep you from reading through the night. But, “Mission Possible” will keep you wide awake. You won’t need the espresso.


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