The McLaughlin Family: What DADT Repeal Means to Us

A family guest post by Casey McLaughlin

As the spouse of an Army officer that
is currently serving, I am overcome today with joy and relief at
the repeal of DADT. Shannon and I were blessed with twins 9 months
ago, after having endured a difficult pregnancy that was even
further complicated by the constant stress of Shannon potentially
losing her job.

When I was medically mandated to maternity leave from my high
school teaching position at 31 weeks (mostly unpaid), the prospect
of Shannon’s vulnerability became even more terrifying. We had
decided that I would stay home with the twins once they arrived,
which meant that we would be completely reliant on her income. To
further complicate matters, my resignation meant that I would lose
my health insurance– since Shannon is also a government employee,
the Defense of Marriage Act prohibits her from putting me on her
health insurance, even though the family plan she upgraded to would
include me at no cost were I her husband. (We now pay $700 a month
for Cobra.) It was imperative that I stay calm for the remaining
weeks of my pregnancy, yet our new reality was inescapable. What
would happen if she lost her job? We had just bought our new house
the summer prior and we had 2 babies on the way. To say that we
took one day at a time was a huge understatement.

Yet in spite of the anxiety, Shannon and I continued to do whatever
we could to help usher through an end to this policy of hate that
robbed us both of so much peace of mind for so long. Shannon has
been a long-time member of SLDN, sitting on the governing board for
the last 4 years, and continued to advocate despite being actively
investigated 3 years prior. During the year long Pentagon
exploratory committee to examine the effects of DADT repeal, I went
to Washington DC during my 6th month of pregnancy to meet with
General Carter Ham and discuss my perspective as the spouse of an
active servicemember. Shannon and I also spoke to the media,
including ABC News and the Washington Post, with the agreement that
all personal details were to be kept strictly confidential.

Now the day has come when the goal has been actualized, and I am
beside myself with happiness, as I was on the day when Obama
initially signed the repeal (we were in the hospital, just 3 days
after the twins were born). I am so proud of Shannon, and how
tirelessly she worked amidst such resistance and in spite of the
risks, remaining in the military, going to Afghanistan after 9/11
and living the code of honor & integrity, even though the very
essence of DADT compelled her to cast such virtues aside by living
in secrecy. I’ll never understand that rationale. But she said it
from the first time I met her 12 years ago and continues today to
be compelled by this “calling”. Shannon has endured the emotional
toll of DADT for so many years, and it has only been compounded by
the pressure of a new family and complete reliance on her to take
care of us. Instead of laying low, instead of keeping her head
down, she has fought with every ounce of her being as an active
duty servicemember to do whatever it took to end this. And although
there are other hurdles ahead in securing the rights, privileges
and entitlements afforded to all military spouses and families,
today we celebrate an incredible victory. As I look at my 2 little
chubby angels playing on their mat, I am so grateful that their
parent is a living example of all of the values that I hope one day
they embody. She is the model of everything that I want for them.