Gay marriage in the Marines

According to Time Magazine, The Marines’ top legal officer has told all Marine lawyers that the corps will not support Marine spouses’ clubs that discriminate against same-sex couples….The Marines made clear discrimination isn’t an option they’ll entertain. End of discussion.

I think that most people – intellectually – know that the military is not a democracy, but I don’t think that most people really – emotionally – understand that, in the military, you do as you are told. It is not like a job, where you can leave if you don’t want to do what they tell you to do. In the military, basically, you do it or you go to jail. Of course it makes sense, many people would decline if hitting the beach first on D-Day were an option, but in runs deeper than that.

My first day in the Army started at 5 AM with a Sergeant – who I later learned wasn’t really a Sergeant but a National Guard Reservist Private First Class acting as a Sergeant –  waking us up by banging on a metal garbage can with a stick and screaming Get the fuck up. Of course we did, scared shitless,  and it made sense for us to get up. But, sitting here and knowing that he really wasn’t a Sergeant, I am pretty sure that – after the first couple of times, atleast – he didn’t really want to get up, at what ever time it took, to get us up at 5 AM.

Everywhere I went in the Army – until I became a Sergeant and the rules imposed on me changed – standard getting up time was 5:30 AM to get to work at 8 AM which was usually only a couple of hundred feet from where we slept. Nobody said being at work at 8 AM is the goal and do what you have to to be on time, the goal was getting up when we were told to. We could complain, and we often did, but we got up.

After three years in the Army, I went back to college at Claremont in Southern California. At the time, Claremont had a policy – regime? program? – that required graduating seniors to pass two major tests to graduate. One was a one day test in our major and the other was a complicated, general, Comprehensive Test in which we were give a list of five books to read – and a week to do so –  and three days to answer the general question that constituted the test. The – hopefully – graduated seniors thought that it was unfair to pass every class four four years and then be washed out by failing an arbitrary, essay,  test. This being the 60’s, the seniors held a meeting to vote on protesting the Comprehensive Test by not taking it.

There were about an half dozen vets in the Senior Class. We were all older and we all knew the “reality of the real world”. We vets all spoke against and voted against the protest and the rest of the class voted for the protest. I was sure that Claremont would just say Fuck You, Get Out if we didn’t take the test. If this had been the Army, they would have put us in the Stockade but this wasn’t the Army so I figured they just wouldn’t graduate us. My mindset was an Army mindset, if somebody orders you to Jump, the only permissible answer is Yes, Sir! How high? End of discussion.

So, in 1948, when President Harry Truman ordered the military to desegregate, the military desegregated – grumbling and slowly because much of the military culture was Southern – and it was fully integrated by the Korean War. When I was in the Army in El Paso during the early 60’s, I could have a beer with a black guy in my local on-base enlisted club but not in town. I was not in El Paso when the civilian world caught up with the military but I expect to be around to see the the civilian world catch up with the Marines. It will be very nice to see.


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