(Saw this one on Chris’ site Saturday, so I asked Chris for permission to reprint. There, Chris prefaced the op/ed with the following: “My grandfather, a West Point graduate who led an infantry company in Korea and a battalion in Vietnam, opposed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and testified against it before a joint House-Senate committee early in 1993. He would’ve been happy to see the repeal vote today in the Senate. He wrote this op-ed for the Washington Post in November 1992.”)

He Was One of Us

By Lucian K. Truscott III

November 24, 1992

“A Gay Young Cavalryman”

How times change. The words above appear as the title of a song opposite page 1 of the brief memoir my father wrote of his service in the U.S. Cavalry between the two world wars. Can you imagine a song today called “A Gay Young Fighter Pilot — or Infantryman — or Leatherneck”?

I commanded an infantry rifle company in the first year of the Korean War. Among the 150 or so men I had with me on the tops of those mean mountains in that bitter cold was at least one gay soldier. All of the other 149 of us knew that if nothing else he was effeminate. That and his red hair are probably why I remember him so well after all these years.

I saw men ridiculing him to his face on occasion, as men will. You know: one hand on a hip, the other waving in the air with a limp wrist as the mimic took prim, mincing steps around him. And the first sergeant approached me one day and said, “Sir I think Wilson [not his name] is a goddam queer.” About all I could say was, “Well, Top, I guess there’s no damn law against it as long he’s doing his job.”

His job was BAR-man; the initials stand for Browning Automatic Rifle. It is a big weapon, weighing more than 20 pounds, but even at his size — about five-seven and 140 pounds — he carried the BAR in his squad. The weapon was so reliable and deadly that the Chinese invariably went for the BAR-man first.

But he did that job, which few men wanted, until a wet spring day in 1951, when I knelt down and looked at the small round hole dead center in his wet greenish-gray forehead below the line of his red hair. I noticed some of the men in his squad turning away from me so I wouldn’t see them crying softly as they put him on a litter so we could carry him with us. He was one of us, a soldier.

I’m as sure of the fact that he was gay as I am that he no doubt wasn’t the only one in the company, that he was a damned good soldier and that there were undoubtedly gay soldiers in the infantry battalion I commanded in Vietnam in 1967-1968. There are probably homosexuals in any group of a hundred or so men you assemble any place, any time.

A few years ago my son wrote a novel about a gay cadet at West Point and brought down the wrath of many graduates upon his (and my) head for even intimating that West Point ever had a homosexual cadet. And now looking back from the vantage point of 40 or 50 years of knowledge, experience and our society’s finally having let gays out of the closet, I’m certain that four general officers I knew (two of them very well) were gay; one was a highly decorated infantry officer in World War II.

I am surprised that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Colin Powell, takes a stance against gays in the military. As a black officer, he must be more intimate with discrimination than most of us.

The argument seems to be that integration of gays will disrupt the discipline of an organization. Of course it will! Did the integration of blacks? You’re damned right it did! And still does to a degree. But the armed forces have controlled it and will continue to until the last of the bigots is gone and we finally have complete equality.

Why don’t we have the guts to admit that there always have been and always will be gays in our society? Admit it and treat them as men. They are, you know.

The writer is a retired Army infantry officer.

The writer was also correct.

And in the “Better Late Than Never” category, DADT has been replealed.

(cross posted from MnProgressiveProject.com; comments welcome there)

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