Thursday, August 19, 2010

Brody's Notes... DADT-- The Human Factor

PFC Barry Winchell, USA   Photo Courtesy Of The Kutteles Family
By Brody Levesque (Washington DC) AUG 19 | "Barry was only 21. He loved the Army. He loved serving our country. And he was among the best in his company. Barry was awarded two Army Commendation Medals and one Army Achievement Medal with the Oak Leaf Cluster. He wanted to be the best he could be and eventually become a helicopter pilot." 
But on July 4th, eleven years ago, that young man who loved the Army, was beaten to death with a baseball bat by fellow soldiers as he slept in his bunk-bed at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. Why? Because of his 'perceived' sexual gender orientation.
In a special Op-Ed column to CNN's website on Tuesday, Pat and Wally Kutteles, Barry's parents wrote:
"Army values were one of the things that attracted Barry to the service. Loyalty: Be true to your country, the Army, your unit, and other soldiers. Respect: Treat others with dignity and respect and expect others to do the same. Selfless service: Put the welfare of the nation, the Army, and your subordinates before your own. Integrity: Do what is right, legally and morally. Honor: Live up to the Army's values."
Clearly however, respect and dignity wouldn't play a role in tragic and onerous way their son was murdered.
Since then, the Kutteles have worked tirelessly in the efforts made across a broad spectrum of Americans who want to see DADT repealed and done away with. In their column they note:
"Since then, we have worked tirelessly to ensure that Barry did not die in vain. We have spoken around the country, advocating tirelessly for repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." That is because DADT amounts to an endorsement of harassment and discrimination. It says to other service members that gays in the military are second-class citizens, that they are not worthy of the respect dictated in the Army's values. Those who assert that the law serves to protect gays in the military are wrong -- it corroborates the fears and bigotry of those who are anti-gay. Worse, it encourages those who are prone to violence to act on their rage." 
And then poignantly they said:
"Our son could be with these brothers and sisters in arms today, but he was taken from us just as he was beginning to realize his dream. He was a quiet, compassionate and strong young man -- the kind of dedicated soldier our country needs as we fight two wars. Nothing will replace him. Nothing will take away the pain that haunts us to this day."
In what one could consider historical irony, earlier this year on March 20th, at the 18th annual Servicemembers Legal Defense Network's dinner & awards presentation held at the National Building Museum in Washington, U. S. Air Force Lt. Colonel Victor Fehrenbach was presented with the  Barry Winchell Courage Award. In presenting that award to Colonel Fehrenbach, Pat Kutteles noted:
 "It is appropriate that the Barry Winchell Courage Award goes to an individual who embodies the essence of courage that Barry exemplified throughout his life"
This past Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. district court for Idaho reached an agreement preventing the Air Force from discharging Fehrenbach under “don’t ask, don’t tell” until the court schedules a hearing in his case.

Openly Gay Congressman Barney Frank, (D-MA) who is opposed to DADT wrote a letter to USAF Secretary Michael B. Donely, in which Frank writes:
"Under any circumstances, the decision to discharge Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach would be not only completely unfair, but a distortion of The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Now that we have agreement among The President, The House and the Senate Armed Services Committee that the policy should be abolished, it would be an unbelievable travesty of justice to discharge him. I strongly urge you to end the proceedings against Lt. Col. Fehrenbach."
Lt. Colonel Fehrenbach is a highly decorated Air Force fighter command pilot and war veteran who has stated in numerous interviews that he has a deep love of service to the United States and for the men & women of the USAF.