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Highschool Project
Emma Tjapkes
Submitted: 2012-11-06 10:32:28.000 (post #: 2424)

Hello! I'm Emma and in my 10th grade Honors English Class I'm doing a research project within dont ask dont tell. I would be intrigued if you maybe would give me a few quotes about your feelings and thoughts through your journey in the service...Thank You!
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Re: Highschool Project
Submitted: 2012-11-08 22:54:23.000 (post #: 2425)

Emma: I was old (45) when I figured out I was a lesbian. I had been in the military about 23 years and could have retired. However, when I first joined the military women could not be married and join the military. When that regulation was changed even married women could not have children and be in the military. Many people challenged those policies and finally those regulations were changed. The ban agains gays and lesbians serving in the military had existed since World War II and had not changed. So I was applying for a top secret clearance because I wanted to become a General. During that interview I was honest and told them I was a lesbian, that honest statement resulted in me losing my career in the military. I filed a lawsuit stating that I was being denied my rights. I won my lawsuit and went back in the military for three more years. At the time of my discharge I was absolutely devastated. I felt as if all my work in the military (by that time 25 years) was being discarded even my work in Viet Nam. I felt worthless and it was very humiliating for everyone to suddenly know I was a lesbian. At that time, in 1989, there were very few people known to be lesbian or gay. It was very awkward and I was expecting to be totally rejected. Instead I was loved and accepted. Barbra Streisand and Glenn Close then decided this part of my life should be made into a movie called Serving in Silence. I also wrote an autobiography of the same name. The movie ended up being very important for people to get to know we were just like everyone else. Because of the movie, I have had the opportunity to give talks at 125 universities talking about Don't Ask, Don't Tell and how it needed to be repealed. It took 20 years but finally in 2010 it was legally repealed and in 2011 became the law of the land so gays and lesbians could serve without fear of losing their careers. The repeal of DADT made me feel that for 31 years I had been serving and representing the American flag and after the repeal the American Flag represented all Americans, including me. Hopefully this gives you some perspective of the importance of this effort. Colonel (ret) Grethe Cammermeyer USA, RN, PhD
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