So we just skirt the hallway sides
A phantom and a fly
Follow the lines and wonder why
There's no connection/And week of rolling eyes
And cheap shots from the trite. — The Shins, "Phantom Limbs"
I had to chapter a Soldier out of the Army today. I had no choice. She was a good Soldier, but the laws are clear and the laws tie my hands.
The words that got the ball rolling on her separation from the Army were only four and they made up one of the most ridiculous sworn statements I have ever seen in my life: "I am a lesbian."
My commanding officer and I stood there looking at the piece of paper. “That’s it?” a look between us seemed to say. A straight, diagonal line from one end of the page to the other said that, yes, that was it.
I glanced over at my young Soldier standing there at attention, eyes locked at some point straight ahead. She had told me earlier while we both were outside smoking a cigarette she was going to do it — she was going to come out to the commander. Most of the unit already knew she was gay — no one really cared. She was smart about it though, keeping it hidden away from those who could put forth into motion processes she wasn’t ready for.
She knew the consequences of what she was about to do, but she told me she couldn’t do it anymore. She couldn’t live the lie, she couldn’t not be herself anymore.
“You sure this is what you want to?” I asked her.
“Yes, I’m sure,” she said, a quiver in her voice betraying the wall of strength she was desperately trying to project.
“Don’t lose your cool, don’t lose you’re bearing,” I said to her after we’d talked some more and affirmed a course of action.
“Be a professional to the very end,” I told her.
Glancing back at her as the CO signed the legal documents I was so proud of her, standing there, rigid, “yes, sir” and “no, sir” the only answers coming out of her mouth. Right there, at that moment, she was walking the walk of an Army value of personal courage, and as I looked at her, both pride and frustration at the current Army policy concerning homosexuals washed over me. This was only the beginning; it would take weeks before all the paperwork would be done and she was discharged from the Army. In the meantime, she was expected to go back out there and be a Soldier, albeit one who wasn’t living a lie anymore.