Update from the Military Education Initiative: Our First Six Months

April 12, 2004

We launched the Military Education Initiative this past December and have much to report about on our first few months of educating veterans about the social science research on the gays-in-the-military issue, as well as about the lives and military service of America’s one million gay and lesbian Vets.

Our efforts to reach out to Veterans Service Organizations and Military Associations are succeeding and, indeed, intensifying. We are finding widespread enthusiasm for the idea of opening a civil dialogue within the broader veteran's community on this subject.

As you know, the social science data gathered in recent years by the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military (CSSMM) continues to steer the discussion and debate about the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in a constructive direction.

Here are just a few of the many significant achievements of our outreach efforts thus far:

  • Visited the National Defense University (NDU), in Washington, DC, in conjunction with CSSMM?s release of its historic study on the combat service of US military forces alongside Allied military forces, who do not have a gay ban, in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Dr. Aaron Belkin, CSSMM’s Director, accompanied two openly gay British Naval Officers to NDU to conduct discussions about their combat experiences serving alongside US troops in the Iraq War.

  • Visited the United States Military Academy, at West Point. Dr. Belkin spoke to groups of students, faculty and staff at West Point about CSSMM’s research.

  • Published opinion pieces in newspapers including the Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times, Marine Corps Times and Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

  • Launched a public education campaign engaging Veterans with positive messages and images about the proud military service of gay and lesbian troops. Hundreds of education packets have been sent to all national veterans groups and military associations, and to many of their local chapters.

  • Distributed a resource guide containing sixty-four points and counter-points candidly addressing the most contentious aspects of the gay ban, including concerns about the privacy of heterosexual and homosexual troops. (Please click here to download a PDF version.)

  • Received national media attention regarding MEI's formation and programmatic work. MEI has been featured on CNN, as well as in articles by the Associated Press, syndicated columnist Deb Price, and in newspapers and magazines across the country.

  • MEI has spoke before several local chapters of The American Legion.

  • Identified hundreds of Veterans from across America who are interested in gaining more insights into this important issue.

CSSMM has also launched a historic new study on the experiences of US gay and lesbian troops serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dr. Nathaniel Frank, Senior Research Fellow at CSSMM, is one of the nation’s leading researchers on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Dr. Frank is seeking US troops, gay and straight, who served - or who are still serving - in Iraq and Afghanistan to participate in a study of their experiences during the War in light of the military's gay ban. Anonymity is guaranteed. Dr. Frank is also seeking anonymous interviews for his book on gays in the military and would like to interview current and former troops who have served in the US military since 1994. Dr. Frank can be reached at nfrank4@nyc.rr.edu.

If you are interested in more information about MEI's efforts, or in scheduling a MEI speaker before your veterans or military organization, please contact us. We appreciate your willingness to think creatively about the gays-in-the-military issue, and to consider the helpful evidence generated by CSSMM’s research.

Thank you for your service to our nation,
Major Jeff Cleghorn, Esq.
U.S. Army, Retired

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Learn more about this first-ever effort to educate American Veterans about the contributions of American gay, lesbian, and other sexual minority servicemembers.

This letter from MEI Board Chairman, Jeff Cleghorn, recounts the organization's first-year accomplishments.


Retired Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, Vincent W. Patton, III, encourages all American Veterans to take a hard look at the new evidence on military service by gays and lesbians. (web page || MS Word Doc)