A Letter to General Amos
Dear General Amos,
As a Marine Corps veteran, let me congratulate you on your new position as the 35th Commandant of the US Marine Corps (USMC). As the commandant, it falls to you to represent all of your Marines. Though now only a few weeks into your tenure, you have not to lived up to that expectation.
The USMC is an institution which values above all other traits, honor, courage, and commitment. Nowhere in the Marine Corps Hymn does it say, “Only if you’re not into other dudes”; nowhere on my uniform was a label that read, “Will not fit homosexuals”; and nowhere in my General Orders did it say, “Defend only your straight brothers in arms.” So, many of us are wondering why you’ve chosen to make the public statements that you have.
During your first town hall you stated, “We recruit differently. We recruit on a warrior ethos.” Being that gays will inevitably serve openly in the USMC, it shows a tremendous lack of faith in your Marines to think that the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) will somehow change what Marines are.
The USMC will continue to attract the same kind of recruit who inhabits this "warrior ethos" regardless if that recruit is gay or straight. Despite what you fear about the repeal of DADT, its repeal will not magically reverse the order of things. Warriors will not become pacifists, tops will not become bottoms, Republicans will not become Democrats, and Marines will not become hippies. Regardless of your opinions, Marines are and will still be Marines, gay or straight. Marines who are gay are just that; Marines first and anything else second. From the moment we earn our title, all Marines are green.
With all eyes on you, you must be accountable for your words. It is important to understand that when you say, “This is about combat effectiveness.” you are carelessly telling Marines in your command that you doubt their effectiveness. Saying DADT is “a reasonable compromise between the unique requirements of military services and the aspirations of qualified citizens who are interested in military service.” tells past, current, and future Marines who are gay that you fundamentally do not view them as adequate or qualified. And, when you go as far as to say "There is nothing more intimate than young men and young women — and when you talk of infantry, we're talking our young men — laying out, sleeping alongside of one another and sharing death, fear and loss of brothers," you insult the honor, courage, and commitment of EVERY Marine by implying that their bond is somehow conditional. Marines are devout believers in comradery, unity, and, by proxy, equality.
While you express a desire to preserve the “macho” of the USMC, I am insulted you’d be so quick to sell the Corps short. Maybe your seniority has made you forgot the adage “adapt and overcome.” Maybe you haven't noticed that not all Marines are the same shade of green or, maybe you’ve forgotten your first General Order “To take charge of this post and ALL government property in view.” Marines, no matter what shade of green they may be, are your property, your responsibility.
All Marines are leaders, all Marines are rifleman. You said yourself, “There’s expectations of Marines, when they come in: they join us, we don’t join them.” No judgment issued by the courts, no law by congress, and no admission by a brother will change that. The USMC attracts warriors. For 235 years Marines who are gay have fought alongside Marines who are straight as brothers and as warriors. We have already faced war and we will continue to face it as an unconditional band of brothers. What the repeal of DADT means is an elevated level of our honor and integrity for all Marines who are gay and the Marines who fight beside them. As our leader, I do not understand what interest you have in denying us that.
In making the statements you’ve made, I’m both confused by what you have chosen to say and more confused that you chose to say it publicly. I’d like to ask why you would willingly disobey Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' and Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen’s order not to discuss your personal feelings on the repeal of DADT with the press? As our new leader, to have disobeyed this order, despite the content, shows a lack of honor, a lack of integrity, and a lack of leadership. The impression your statements have given those of us who look to your leadership is a bad impression. If preserving good moral and unit cohesion is your goal, I fail to see how defying your superiors and alienating your troops helps you achieve this goal. The impression you have given many of those serving and many veterans is that you are judgmental, doubting, and insubordinate. The statements you have made paint you as the commandant of a chosen few of your Marines. It is up to you to prove us wrong. I hope you do.
Brett Edward Stout
Cpl., USMC, Veteran
Brett Edward Stout is a University of Iowa graduate, Marine Corps veteran, and author of the novel Sugar-baby Bridge.
Author photos by Jo Ann Santangelo.