Army vet discharged under DADT "shocked" by repeal - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Army vet discharged under DADT "shocked" by repeal

Sean Smith Sean Smith
Jo-Ann Adams Jo-Ann Adams
Blake Oshiro Blake Oshiro

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is history, it's repeal now the law. And one reaction is shock, and not necessarily from opponents. That reaction came from a man who was kicked out of the army because of the policy against gays in the military.

"My reaction was short of shock and excitement, and made me think of the last five years," said Sean Smith. "I felt heavy and light all at the same time."

Smith was given an honorable discharge from the army five years ago, after he told his company commander he was gay.

Smith was stationed at Schofield Barracks, which was his first duty station. "I joined the army as a Chinese linguist shortly after 9/11," he said. "I wanted to do something to serve my country. I felt compelled to serve in that time of need."

Smith was trained as an intelligence officer and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2004. He looked forward to a career in military intelligence. But after his return from deployment, he started dating a man who is now his partner. And he decided to come out, because he wanted to be honest about who he was with the people he was serving with.

"Nobody had any problems with how I was doing my job," Smith said. "For the most part, people didn't care when they found out I was gay.

"I honestly didn't ask to be kicked out, so if they had allowed me to stay in being open, I would probably still be there today," he added.

The repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" has also been watched by the local gay and lesbian community who also are surprised -- but glad it happened.

"It's a huge testament, I think, to how much we've come in terms of getting acceptance of our plight and us as people and part of the normal fabric of society," said Jo-Ann Adams, a memory of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaii.

In Hawaii, the repeal could also spell an easier road for a civil unions bill, similar to one vetoed earlier this year by then-Gov. Lingle.

"I think that any time there's a national discussion on the elimination of discrimination, I think that's a helpful thing when it comes to our own state and what we need to do," said Rep. Blake Oshiro, who sponsored the bill in the last legislative session.

While the repeal came too late for Smith, he knows there are others like him who are still serving in the military, but not openly. "I know people that are officers and enlisted," he said. "I know at least one of them is really excited about how this is going to change his life, to be able to be open now. I'm very excited for them.

Smith is now an attorney with a local law firm. He said he was not considering returning to the army, but is thinking about joining the Army Reserve to serve in the Judge Advocate General Corps, the legal branch of the military.

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