Difficult Decision for Gay Soldier:
Atlantan among 770 Discharged Last Year
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
June 23, 2004, Page A3
By Ron Martz
Brian Muller of Atlanta did not have to tell anyone
in the Army he is gay.
Under the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell"
policy he could have continued to serve his country
as a bomb technician dismantling explosive devices as
long as he kept his homosexuality to himself.
"I knew the lines not to cross and I didn't, even
though I pushed them to the limit," Muller, 25,
said Tuesday as he recounted his eight-year Army career.
But after more than nine months in Afghanistan, the
former staff sergeant who also served three tours in
Bosnia decided to admit his sexual orientation to his
commander. He had had enough of "don't ask, don't
tell," he said.
The result was a quick, but honorable, discharge from
the Army in which he once planned to make a career.
"It hurts to come back [from Afghanistan] and
be told it doesn't matter what I did in the military.
It doesn't count, because I'm gay," said Muller,
who was discharged last November.
Muller is one of 770 service members discharged in
2003 for homosexuality, according to a study released
That number is down significantly from the record 1,227
discharged in 2001 before the start of the war on terrorism.
Since the policy was implemented in late 1993, more
than 9,500 service members have been discharged.
Loss of specialists
What is troubling about Muller's discharge, say gay
rights advocates, is that his expertise and that of
many other service members discharged under "don't
ask, don't tell" cannot easily be replaced.
That is especially true, they say, at a time when the
military is extending the enlistments of many active,
reserve and National Guard personnel because of the
conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Between 1998 and 2003, many of those discharged were
in highly technical or specialized fields that require
years of training, according to the study by the University
of California at Santa Barbara's Center for the Study
of Sexual Minorities in the Military.
Among those discharged were 88 linguists, seven of
them Arab language specialists, 49 nuclear, biological
and chemical warfare specialists, 90 nuclear power engineers
and 150 rocket and missile specialists.
The results of the study "should be an outrage
to most Americans who value national security and military
readiness above simple discrimination," said Steve
Ralls, a spokesman for the Washington-based Servicemembers
Legal Defense Network, which assists gay and lesbian
The Pentagon maintains that allowing those who are
openly gay and lesbian in the military would disrupt
Under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy,
gays are allowed to serve as long as they keep their
sexual orientation secret and don't engage in homosexual
Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness,
which opposes gays in the military, said those discharged
should not have been in those sensitive jobs.
"There is no shortage of people in the military,
and we do not need people who identify themselves as
homosexual," she said.
'At peace' with choice
Muller, who was born in Albuquerque, N.M., but whose
family now lives in Ozark, Ark., said he knew for some
time he was gay but did not admit it to himself until
he had been in the Army about 4 1/2 years.
He initially enlisted as a cavalry scout and served
in Bosnia with the 1st Armored Division. He later switched
to explosives ordnance disposal, or bomb technician.
Before deploying to Afghanistan in October 2002 Muller
spent time at President Bush's Texas ranch as part of
a security detail. He had top-secret clearance and worked
with the Secret Service to sweep areas for explosive
devices prior to the arrival of the president.
"A lot of careers in the military, you're out
there to take lives. Our job was to save lives,"
After his discharge from the military, Muller came
to Atlanta for vacation, liked what he saw and decided
to stay. He has dabbled in local politics and now works
as a salesman for an auto dealership.
He has also become vice president of the fledgling
Georgia chapter of American Veterans for Equal Rights
and on Sunday will be a member of the color guard in
the Pride Parade that is part of the four-day celebration
of gay pride in Atlanta.
Muller said he is at peace with himself and his decision
to leave the military and the job he loved. But he said
there are many others like him in the military who are
still struggling with the policy.
The fact that they are homosexual should not make a
difference in how the military views them, he said.
"All we want is to serve our country and do our