Bob Moon: As of today, you can go ahead and ask — and it shouldn’t matter what the answer is.
The repeal of the military policy known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell became effective at midnight. But not before more than 14,000 men and women
were forced to leave the military because of their sexual orientation.
As Marketplace’s Jeff Tyler reports, amid celebrations planned across the country, some are marking the occasion by re-applying for their old jobs.
Jeff Tyler: For months now, 34-year-old Jeremy Johnson has been planning for this day: his first opportunity to re-enlist and serve his country as an openly gay man.
Jeremy Johnson: I’ve been working with a recruiter since last October. He’s got a package more or less completed. I just have one more form to fill out.
He wants to join the reserves while he finishes college. After that, he hopes to become an officer.
He served before: 10 years in the Navy. It ended when he came out as gay, and was shown the door. Predictably, he gets lots of questions about why he’d want to go back. Johnson responds by asking people to think about a job they love.
Johnson: If they have a job that they are passionate about, that they were forced out of unfairly, and maybe that unfairness was corrected — if you were that invested, had 10 years in that job and could make a career out of it, would you go back? And that’s kind of how I look at my career.
Carlos Miranda has been working as a registered nurse since he was kicked out of the military after eight years of service. He’s now planning to apply for a job in the Air Force Reserves.
Carlos Miranda: It’ll be a great opportunity for me to get back into the military and be a part of something bigger than myself and hopefully accumulate another source of retirement.
Retirement is a sore issue for Ed Lopez. He had invested 17 years in his Navy career. When he was discharged, Lopez was a chief petty officer.
Ed Lopez: I received commendations, medals. And at the point where it was found out that I was gay, then all of that meant nothing.
Lopez was forced out three years shy of the 20 years needed to retire with full benefits for life. That would have entitled Lopez to half his normal salary — about $1,500 a month.
Lopez: I figure I would have earned about $200,000 to date in retirement pay. And that doesn’t really take into account any of the health benefits, the medical benefits or anything. That would have been just regular base pay.
Lopez says his decision to re-enlist is about more than money. He wants to wrap up his military career with dignity.
But first, he needs to be hired. Just because gays can serve in the military doesn’t guarantee them jobs. Again, Jeremy Johnson.
Johnson: Retention across the military is high. The Marine Corps has a waiting list to get in.
The Pentagon is winding down two wars, and facing huge budget cuts.
Johnson: It used to be that the military provided a lot of job security. While that’s still true, to some degree, at least in the Navy, there’s no such thing as this absolute guaranteed career anymore.
Traditionally, the military has hired veterans to make up for staff shortfalls. But the Defense Department says it has fewer vacancies to be filled. In other words, gays are welcome to apply — but there are fewer jobs and they’re harder to get.
I’m Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.