‘Death doesn’t discriminate’

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

If you’re like me, the President’s announcement regarding a ban on transgender individuals serving in any military capacity — and I’ll stress any capacity — seems a bit out of left field. If you had your ear to the ground, you probably heard the rumblings coming down the track when the Joint Chiefs of Staff requested a plan to allow transgendered servicemen be delayed for further study. But I don’t think most of us expected a full-on ban. That said, Joint Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford issued a statement saying no changes would be made to the policy until direction comes from the President through the Secretary of Defense. So it’s not quite settled.

Now, you may be opposed to gender reassignment surgeries. You may be opposed to LGBTQ rights. You might even be opposed to women serving in the military, but the one thing I thought we could all agree on was that anybody is capable of serving their country. Apparently, that’s not the case — again, I’ll refer to the President’s words and stress the words “any capacity.” The President explained, “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.” On a side note, I’m sure similar arguments came up when women first tried to enlist.

So, here I am, in northwest Iowa, fully aware most of the population doesn’t support most issues under the rainbow flag but reveres the stars and stripes and supports enlisted individuals without question. These two ideas seem to be on a collision course. Support the individual’s desire to serve in the military or support the government’s new policy.

I may be out of my element.

So let me once again introduce the people of northwest Iowa to Hospital Corpsman Third Class Jeremy Rosel, senior line corpsman for Bravo Company, Second Tank Battalion, Second Marine Division. He completed his service several years ago, after being deployed in Iraq and he has been my friend since we attended Lincoln Elementary School.

“As a combat veteran and someone who firmly believes that all Americans should serve their country for at least one year, it was incredibly discouraging to read that the President announced his plan to ban trans individuals from military service,” Rosel said.

Rosel admitted the cost of medical care for transgender troops may indeed be significant, but pointed out it seems like an issue military recruiters could easily discuss up front with recruits to be sure they’re still willing to serve, knowing medication may not be provided in the field. He also pointed out a recent Washington Post article, which found the Department of Defense has spent approximately five times the estimated cost of transgender care on drugs like Viagra.

“Another point I’ve heard a lot is that transgender individuals commit suicide at a higher rate,” Rosel said. “Again, I find that data to be misleading.”

He highlighted a 2014 study from UCLA, which found the overarching reason for suicide in the transgender population was, “rejection by family and friends, discrimination, victimization or violence.” More over, the suicide attempt rate for trans-men and trans-women is within 5 percent of the full sample size, according to the study.

Rosel said some estimates place the number of transgender individuals currently enlisted somewhere between 12,000 and 15,000.

“Now these service members will face an added category of stress from the very people they swore to protect,” Rosel said. “So let’s break it down to one cold, hard fact — a fact that most people choose to forget. The enemy doesn’t give a rat’s rear end how we choose to identify ourselves. White, black, tall, short, rich, poor, gay or straight; to the enemy, we’re just the enemy, and their goal is to kill us before we kill them. Personally, I don’t give a damn what you call yourself, if you take the oath to defend our country, I’ll proudly follow you into combat. It is an American right to have the opportunity to serve in this country. If you’re able-bodied and willing to fight, then you should be given every opportunity to proudly wear the uniform.”

For the former Navy Corpsman, the situation is somewhat straightforward.

“War is hell and death doesn’t discriminate,” he said.