In all of my wildest dreams I never thought it would possibly come to this. I'm not even sure that I could have actually crafted the way that it played out in reality. And I'm not sure that I anticipated that I would be able to be a part, and have a front row seat, to such cutting-edge decisions.
Yesterday morning at 05:30, we met six friends in a dark parking lot at a motel near the Oregon Air National Guard Base located at our airport. Dressed up. Jackets. Dresses. Ties. A cold fall morning. Clearly, tensions were high. Emotions on edge. Wanting to laugh and be giddy but the underlying feelings of uncertainty led to deep breaths. "Okay folks, this is how the ceremony will play out......," he began. He was being promoted to Master Sargent. In a formal ceremony at the Air National Guard base. And he wanted us to all know the order, the formality, who goes in first, who sits where. This was our good friend of a dozen years or more. He's been in for 16 years and he loves his military duty time. He's a great instructor, mentor, teacher....and cares deeply for those in his unit. They have been on several deployments to the Middle East including the most recent duty in Iraq. He tells all sorts of stories of his time in Iraq. And our house has been his house. Each month when he comes into Portland for his military weekend, he stays at our house. We feel like we've been on his duty with him. We know the names of all of his guard buddies and all of the stories about each of them. We've been there for his ups and downs. For the good and the bad. And when his mind just won't allow him to sit in another crowded, noisy restaurant with children running around, we get it. We understand it. And we leave. His time in war has caused his life to be different.
And the reason that things have played out in the way they have is because he is gay. Yes sir, 100% unabashed homosexual. Except on the Air Base. Except when he is leading his unit in weapons instruction. Except when he is doing his military security duties at an undisclosed base in Iraq. Except when he is on the shooting range. Except when he voluntarily takes himself to war for his country. Until now. Until September 20, 2011, when the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell came into effect. Not even a month ago and now his promotion to Master Sargent. And the dark aforementioned morning in the motel parking lot.
You see, today his partner is going on the base with us. For the very first time. For the first time in Oregon Air National Guard history. For the first time for every single person at Commander's Call to see and hear. He is being promoted at a formal ceremony at 06:00 in front of military men, boys really. In the last few days before the ceremony, he made special coming-out announcements to his Sargent and Commander. In private before the big ceremony. Just so that they were not caught off guard. And we are here too. So nervous. Uncomfortable as we enter the building. Everyone in fatigues. "Yes sir" and "No sir" the phrases of the day. We have reserved seats in the first two rows while the room fills up with about 60 or so soldiers. Lordy, I'm sweating. And the ceremony begins.
His mother cries. His partner tells of "acting" and "being an actor" today and in years past. I hear of his partner's work in advocating on behalf of all of the silent partners who have hidden their faces for years. Lying, changing names, changing stories, not being able to post on Facebook about great experiences or ask for help in the dark days. His partner has a rich history of fighting, wanting more, wanting better. Stories about going to the Pentagon to meet with U.S. Military experts and higher ups. Of passing the Joint Chiefs of Staff office. Of being in the room when President Obama signed the repeal a few months back. Of shaking the President's hand and thanking him on behalf of a nameless, faceless soldier. Of the big smile on the President's face. Man oh man, that's powerful stuff.
And now we're in the room. And he is speaking. He's introducing his mom. And then, "Probably this is what you've all been wondering about, this is my husband." Silence. What? What did he say? And then his story to the group about his husband working for the good. For the silence that has simply had to be. And the group claps. And claps. And we stand to our feet out of respect. Remember, this has never, ever happened here before. The first time. In history. And the receiving line afterwards....I'm shaking hand after hand. Saying good morning. Saying hello. Saying thank you. Everyone pleasant. Everyone energetic and polite. And a few....the Sargent.....looking right straight into his face and speaking directly to the formerly silent partner with words to this effect: I want you to know how much I appreciate all of the work you've done behind the scenes for this cause. It is a pleasure to meet you. I've told the military for a while now that we were prepared for this. Wow. What a day. I told my own LoverBoy afterwards that this is definitely in our Top 10 list of great things that we've been able to experience in our time together. Amazing. So powerful. History in the making. Trend setting.
And last night about 8pm, I receive a text message from the formerly silent partner "Who would have thought that I'd ever be spending the evening eating pizza and drinking beer with a bunch of straight military guys with my partner....these are amazing days." And they are.