What a Difference a Year or Two Makes!

Veteran’s Day has always been a day of celebration in our family.  Generations of my family have given service to this incredible country: grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, father-in-law, brother-in-law, and myself have all served.  This Veteran’s Day will be no different – we will pause and honor all who have given their time and talents. 

Since the age of 6 when I saw my cousin [Major Dick Campbell, USMC(ret)] in his US Marine Corps Dress Uniform, I knew I wanted to be in the military – that became my dream. Dick unexpectedly became my father-figure when my dad (an Army veteran) passed away when I was 18.  Dick’s career in the Corps (as an infantry officer in Vietnam to designing new systems in DC) continued to inspire me as I was growing up.  I realized my dream in May of 1987 when I was commissioned an Ensign in the US Navy.  I served with honor and distinction in the US Navy for 21 years rising to the rank of Commander. 

But because of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the incompatibility of being gay and being a career military officer at the time, I was forced to retire in 2007 to protect my family. You’ll surely remember the rest of the statistics – thousands kicked out and millions of dollars wasted on their training and education.  And, that is tragic! Another tragedy is the cost to the integrity and honor of thousands of gay and lesbian Service members by forcing them to lie during the life of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. 

Today, my husband, Larry, and our two beautiful kids, Nick and Tristion, can share in the military traditions and benefits I earned.  Larry and I formed our family through domestic foster/adoption here in California.  Tristion was first and was 5 years old when met him.  Such an incredible child and, in his own words, he “was the fastest, smartest and could jump higher than all the other kids”.  He was the perfect child for us – and the start of our family.  

About 18 months after Tristion’s adoption, we received a call out of the blue – and, before I answered, I knew we’d be getting another son!  Nick was our second adoption.  He was 13 – already a teenager – and so ready to be in a loving, supportive, stable family.  And there couldn’t have been a better way to complete our family. 

But, while I was on active duty, my family never went to a Change of Command ceremony, or a Christmas party, or any of my promotions.  Additionally, we had to take incredible precautions to protect the kids during their adoption process to ensure they had access to the things any military dependent had – all while not getting me kicked out of the Navy.  The courts and the adoption system in San Diego were very willing to work with us – their big concern was a safe and loving family – not an irrational federal bill.  After all, we weren’t breaking the law – we were just ensuring there was no TELLING… 

Because of the incredible work of many patriots, today’s service members don’t live under that oppressive law.  They are free to love whom they love.  In fact, because of the downfall of DOMA as well, they are also free to marry.

So, yes, this year will be a celebration.  Larry and I were married on 1/4/14 and so it will be our first Veteran’s Day as a married couple where he is a full participant in my military career.  And, perhaps my two kids remember some of my career and seeing me in uniform and that will motivate them to serve.