Lt. Dan Choi served his country with honor in Iraq as an American infantry officer in the U.S. Army. But in June 2010, Lt. Choi was officially discharged from the Army, after coming out as gay on an episode of the Rachel Maddow Show. Now, months after being discharged for violating the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, the Department of Defense wants to charge Lt. Choi more than $2,500, to make up the cost of "the unearned portion" of his enlistment bonus.
That's right, the Department of Defense wants Lt. Choi to pay the military back for unfinished service -- service that Lt. Choi was unable to complete because the military kicked him out for being gay.
Turns out this is a common problem for LGBT soldiers discharged from the military under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Former Air Force ROTC Cadet Mara Boyd was asked to pay back more than $30,000 after she was discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." And many others have faced similar bills, despite the fact that their service was cut short due to the military's discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
As Scott Wooledge points out at DailyKos, Lt. Choi is taking a firm stand, writing President Obama an open letter where he says that he will not pay the military back for being discharged.
"It would be easy to pay the $2500 bill and be swiftly done with this diseased chapter of my life, where I sinfully deceived and tolerated self-hatred under Don't Ask Don't Tell," Choi said. "My obligations to take a stand, knowing all the continued consequences of my violations, are clear. I refuse to pay your claim."
Stand with Lt. Choi, and tell the President and the Department of Defense that charging gay soldiers for being discharged from the military is ruthless and wrong. While "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" might be headed for extinction, it's clear that the policy's negative impact continues to be felt by dedicated American soldiers and veterans.
It’s not only a tragedy that for the past 17 years, the U.S. military has kicked out over 14,000 soldiers because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” But to ask these discharged soldiers to pay back thousands of dollars to the military, all for being discharged because of their sexual orientation, is outrageous.
I urge you to put an end to these kinds of charges for discharged gay soldiers. Soldiers like Lt. Choi should be honored for their valor and service, not charged thousands of dollars as a lingering consequence of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”