The film offers a comprehensive account not just of what’s happened since DADT went into effect but of gays in military history in general dating back to 508 B.C.
That date refers back to the Spartans, one of several historical groups or figures that through diaries and other documents have been shown to have had homosexuals in their ranks ranging from the famous such as Alexander the Great and Richard the Lionheart to the less-well-known figure Baron von Steuben, a Prussian captain who George Washington cited as a pivotal figure in the American victory in the Revolutionary War for a military training manual that he wrote.
In fact, the U.S. military didn’t have an official policy banning gays until World War II when top military officials, seeking an official reason to blame the increase in mental problems in veterans of World War I, decided to blame homosexuality. Even then, most were only discharged if commanders decided to make a case of it. Author and WWII veteran Gore Vidal speaks of the open homosexuality and how the higher ranks just chose to look the other way. When the war was ending and the military was looking to downsize, that was when gays started to be discharged, under what were called “blue discharges” instead of full-blown courts-martial, most being dumped in various port cities such as San Francisco, which is how the city ended up with such a large homosexual population.
When the policy first began to be challenged legally was in 1975 when Air Force Technical Sgt. Leonard Matlovich sued and appeared on the cover of Time. He’d served two tours in Vietnam, been awarded the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. After a long court battle, Matlovich actually won reinstatement and promotion in 1980, but the Air Force convinced him they’d find another reason to get rid of him or that he’d lose in the Supreme Court and offered him a financial settlement instead, which he took. He died of AIDS in 1988. His tombstone is in the Congressional Cemetery, but does not bear his name and actually lies in the same row as J. Edgar Hoover. Matlovich meant it as a tribute to all gay veterans. Here is a photo of what he left for the world to read.
Co-directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato do an excellent job packing in a lot of information, admittedly much of which we’ve heard before, and placing it in an fast-moving, concise package that runs less than 90 minutes long. In addition to the facts and archival footage, they also have good interview subjects such as former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., the first Iraq war vet elected to Congress, who also happens to be straight and married, who led the legislative fight to get DADT repealed and Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network that led the lobbying effort and never lost his optimism as the chance for the repeal began to look bleaker and bleaker in the intransigent Senate.
The documentary reminds us of some of the most infuriating effects of DADT such as the discharge of 54 gay Arab linguists who, if still on the job, might have translated al-Qaida chatter referring to 9/11 as the day for a big attack prior to it happening. Since 9/11 led to war and, indirectly, to the nonsense in Iraq, it’s interesting to note that DADT discharges dropped starting in 2001 because they needed troops to fight in the two wars, though once tours of duties ended, they’d kick the troops out. It also reminds us of how much the lowered the bar for recruitment allowing felons into the military even people who had made terrorist threats…. (Edward Copeland, http://eddieonfilm.blogspot.it/”