Yesterday a guy on Facebook Live went on a rant about how he thinks transgender people are weird. He said he was confused about them and therefore he thought they should not be allowed to serve in the US military. This made me think about the US military’s history of discrimination, and how the time has come for it to stop.
Since the earliest days of US history, there have been rules on the books across all branches of the military that have forced discrimination against women, African Americans, Native Americans, Asians, Hispanics, Gays, Lesbians and Transgender people. Most of the time these rules matched what was happening in society at large. Who could serve and what role they could fill changed depending on war- and peace-time demands.
The fascinating thing, though, is that people, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, have always stepped up and demonstrated their patriotism. Throughout US history, people from all quarters have repeatedly served the nation even though the nation discriminated against them. Given this, the interesting question is not: Can or should different people be allowed to serve? The real question is: Why do people who are told they are not worthy of serving the country step up and serve the country so well?
Woman were barred from serving in combat roles for centuries, and only under certain conditions could they work in and around the military as secretaries and nurses. Up until the 1970s, the service of females was only permitted when wars reached such a desperate pitch that all hands, regardless of gender, were needed. Since the 1970s, the military has started to open up the ranks to female volunteers serving in combat units and aboard warships. In 2015 the military opened all combat jobs to women, but there are still debates raging today over weather or not women can handle such demands. It’s about time combat roles opened to women, because according to Wikipedia: Over 250 women served in combat roles in the Civil War, most of whom used male names as aliases. Also, during WWII “67 Army nurses and 16 Navy nurses were captured and spent three years as Japanese prisoners of war. There were 350,000 American women who served during World War II and 16 were killed in action; in total, they gained over 1,500 medals, citations and commendations.” So, why would we restrict women from serving in combat if they are ready and able?
African Americans have faced discrimination since before the country was founded. It was either impossible or extremely difficult for black men to join the military and serve honorably. If they were allowed, they could only work in segregated units, as a cook, in the laundry or as a porter. Black men were sometimes put to work handling dangerous explosives, where they faced the risk of being blown up. There are countless incidents of racial discrimination throughout US military history which led to race riots in the Army and aboard Navy ships right up through the Vietnam War in the 1970s. The tragedy is that blacks have served in the US armed forces honorably since the Revolutionary War. All you have to do is look up accounts of the 54th Regiment, the Buffalo Soldiers, and the Tuskegee Airman just to name a few examples. If you want to read stories that will make goose bumps crawl all over your flesh and make you realize how wrong the US military’s racist and discriminatory practices have been, just Google Doris Miller or Carl Brashear.
Japanese people were rounded up all over the Western US and put in internment camps during World War II. The irony being that Japanese American males who wanted to serve in the military during WWII were allowed to do so, but often in segregated units. There are many accounts of American men of Japanese heritage who returned home on leave after serving in warzones, and they had to go to detention camps in California, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Arkansas to visit their families. Imagine serving your country in war, facing death on the battlefield or on the high seas, yet your parents and sisters and brothers are being held as prisoners of war back at home.
Native Americans have served in the military in greater proportion than any other racial or ethnic group, all while facing unfair discrimination. There are many accounts of Native Americans serving honorably in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam and all the conflicts during recent years in the Middle East. How ironic that people who are discriminated against at home go to war and serve their country when called to do so.
Given the history of the US and our military being wrong on racism and discrimination, why then do we continue to question the capability of people based on their gender or sexual orientation? Years ago, not only those in power but those serving in the military, held racist and discriminator beliefs. Today some people still have the same wrong beliefs. The simple fact is that your grandparents were either the ones doing the oppression or they were being oppressed. One or the other. The high irony of our history is that everyone in the military is fighting to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”
Today we have white, black and brown, male and female admirals and generals leading soldiers and sailors from all walks of life. Today we have people of all races serving side by side, people of all genders serving side by side. Is it perfect? Not likely. Can we strive to improve things? Always. Should we continue our history of discrimination by preventing Gays, Lesbians or Transgender people from serving in the Military? No.
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