Former United States army service member and Christiansburg resident Cindy Mitchell will be in Blacksburg today to speak out against the U.S. military’s sexuality policy of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Serving for two years, Mitchell rose to the rank of private first class, and left the service under an honorable discharge. Mitchell’s husband still serves as a member of the U.S. Army Reserve.
Mitchell will be one of three featured speakers for the Blacksburg leg of the “Voices of Honor: A Generation Under ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’” tour. The nationwide tour, put on by the Human Rights Campaign in conjunction with Servicemembers United, will look to rally support to end the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
The policy, enacted in 1993, allows for gay soldiers to serve provided they do not engage in “homosexual conduct.” As a part of the policy, individuals joining the armed forces would not be asked about their sexuality.
Mitchell spoke with the Collegiate Times on Tuesday about her time in uniform, gays in the military, and her own upbringing in Georgia.
COLLEGIATE TIMES: Why are you coming out against “Don’t ask, don’t tell?” What makes this an issue you care about?
MITCHELL: When I served, there were many homosexual people that are in the military, that I’m very close friends with, that I worked with everyday.
I didn’t think it was right for somebody to tell you that because of your sexual preference you can’t serve your country.
If they’re willing to sacrifice their time and their life for their country, it shouldn’t matter what their sexual preference is.
CT: About how many homosexuals would you say you worked with? Was this really widespread?
Mitchell: Oh yes, definitely. In basic training, just out of the about 25 females that went through, about eight or nine were homosexual.
When I got to my actual duty station, one of my (Non-Commissioned Officers) was homosexual.
A lot of the military police I was friends with were homosexual, and I never had a problem with them whatsoever.
CT: Was it surprising to see this high of a number?
MITCHELL: Yes and no. When you enlist, they tell you as a recruit you cannot be a homosexual, but they cannot force you to tell. It’s something to keep under the covers.
Basically, they can threaten you with discharge if you come out and say you are homosexual.
CT: Do you feel you were breaking the rules by not reporting your fellow officers?
MITCHELL: No. Not at all. Everybody knew, nobody said anything.
CT: One of the issues that have come up in the discussion about “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is the impact on unit morale. What are some of your thoughts on this aspect of the debate?
MITCHELL: I don’t think it hurts morale at all. As long as they got in there and did their job, they were all a part of the team and got the mission completed. It never affected morale at all. It’s a job. We were paid to do our job, and when we were at work we did our job. That was it.
CT: Was the productivity of any of your homosexual service members an issue?
MITCHELL: Not at all. When they came to work, they were at work. All personal lives, even those of heterosexual people, were left at the door when they came in.
CT: What impact do you see if the government changed its mind on “Don’t ask, don’t tell?” What do you think would happen?
MITCHELL: I think for individuals it would boost morale, because people could be true to themselves, and not try to hide behind a shield. They would feel more comfortable at work.
For the military as a whole, we all fight for one thing, for freedom. Who are we to tell somebody because of their sexual preference that they can’t fight for their country? When there are numerous heterosexual people, it would do nothing but boost the whole morale of not only individuals but also the military as a whole.