Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Stories from the Frontlines: Chief Hospital Corpsman Brian K. Humbles, USN (Ret.)

Anticipating the markup of the Defense Authorization Bill in the Armed Services Committees of the Senate and the House, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network has launched a campaign, publishing open letters daily to President Obama from gay and lesbian servicemembers to urge the president to get "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repealed this year. As we've discussed on the show, the president must pressure senators on the Senate Armed Services Committee to put repeal as an amendment in the Defense Authorization Bill. And the president must put it in the defense budget he sends to Congress.

Every day we're on-air on the show, as well as here on the blog, we will share a letter, along with coalition of other blogs and commentators, that SLDN has highlighted from a servicemember written to President Obama.

May 12, 2010

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

A “sexual predator” -- that’s what someone in the military called me after 22 years of faithful service.

It was September, 2005. I remember the moment I received notice from the Navy Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) that I was under investigation and I couldn’t figure out why.

Not long before that day, I was conducting medical exams on two sailors who were being open about their sexual orientation. The rules were clear. If a service member comes “out” to a medical professional or even a chaplain, we were required to report it.

Instead of alerting their command, I made the choice to caution them about the risks of being too open. As a bisexual man myself, I knew the fear they experienced under the law of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

I knew the “ins and outs” of serving silently – even while deployed to Afghanistan. The law, frankly, is a scary thing. The fear of being “outed” – of losing your job – can sometimes be too much to handle.

My good faith efforts in counseling these two young men on their sexual orientation resulted in accusations of molestation. In the course of the investigation, under intense pressure from an NCIS agent and a desire to be truthful, I admitted to being bisexual.

Fortunately, it didn’t take long for NCIS to conclude its investigation and find the accusations by the two men to be without merit. The authorities governing medical ethics at the hospital also launched an independent investigation and concluded the charges were unfounded. And finally, an Article 32 hearing exonerated me of any wrong doing.

Everyone thought the case was closed. I thought the case was closed. But it wasn’t.

The Staff Judge Advocate (SJA) on base, acting without authority, continued her own investigation and convinced the ranking Admiral that regulations mandated that he move to administratively separate me with an “Other Than Honorable” discharge; a move that would result in the loss of my 20+ year retirement.

Acting without the proper authority, she even went over the Admiral’s head and appealed to the Navy’s personnel office, telling them I was taking “sexual liberties” with patients, which she knew was not true.

I wanted to serve my country. Now, I was fighting to not be humiliated by it. At the SJA’s encouragement, the command initiated discharge proceedings. I knew I’d be discharged but my retirement and my livelihood was also on the line.

In the middle of opening statements at my discharge hearing, a fellow service member who also sat on the Administrative Separation Board, lashed out and called me a “sexual predator.” While she was removed from the board, the damage was done.

After a strong push by my faithful defense team, the board ruled that I could keep my retirement benefits and be discharged honorably.

I served for 22 years and wanted only to fulfill the remainder of my time. A promise I made to my country.

The criminal investigation by NCIS took all but six months. But one person -- a JAG officer -- spent the next eighteen months and countless man hours attempting to have me discharged with a reduction in rank and no retirement, all because I was gay.

Sir, those two years were frankly, mental hell, all because one person felt I shouldn’t be in the Navy, a service I loved and still love today.

Mr. President, the men and women in the armed forces need your leadership now. Repeal this law, this year. Help stop the pain of so many people who are currently facing discharge hearings. Help them keep their honor. Help them keep their integrity.

With great respect,
Brian K. Humbles
Chief Hospital Corpsman
Surface Warfare/Fleet Marine Forces
United States Navy (RET)