Veterans react to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal

By Brandon Richards- bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC-TV) – On Saturday, the U.S. Senate voted to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," a policy that prohibits gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

President Obama will sign the measure that overturns the ban into law on Wednesday.

The gay community views the repeal as a major civil rights victory.

But the debate over whether getting rid of the policy was the right thing to do continues, even among Louisiana veterans.

Army veteran Jake LeBrun, of Westlake, admits to practicing homophobia, by using anti-gay slurs, when he served as a combat medic and X-ray technician in the Army Medical Corp in the 1990s.

Lebrun recalled serving alongside two men, who he described as intelligent, principled and professional. He later learned they were both gay.

"If I had to pick half a dozen people that I trusted the most with my life, they were it," said LeBrun. "Yet because of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' they hid a large part of their identity, part of what made them who they were. They did that because of the culture of negativity and prejudice that I took part of."

LeBrun , a straight man and married father of three, said he finally realized his behavior was wrong. Lebrun now supports the repeal of DADT and is a proud supporter of the local gay pride movement.

"I really had to rethink my own views on that and I'm happy to see my country doing the same," said LeBrun.

But Retired Col. Phil St. Amant said repealing DADT will put military missions in jeopardy.

"I think it was a terrible mistake," said St. Amant. "It will create quite a bit of difficulties for the military service. My biggest fear is that we may end up seeing units fail to complete their mission because of this changed environment in which they have to operate."

"It's really an insult to [the troops] to say they're not going to be able to do it because they're distracted or because they hold personal beliefs that are in conflict with what their orders are," countered LeBrun.

Even when the repeal of DADT is signed into law, it may take up to a year to implement.

According to a Pentagon survey, two-thirds of service members don't think the repeal will have a negative effect on their effectiveness.

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