October 13th, 2010



Assassin: There's enough poison in this needle to take out an army platoon.
John Casey: Lucky for me I'm a Marine.

Chuck vs. El Angel de la Muerte

Whenever we watch a silly spy or war movie, I frequently turn during some crazy action or weapon sequence to ask Graham "have you done that?" And sometimes, a lot of times, the answer is yes.

Graham was a Marine, force recon, in the early 90s. The first Gulf War happened, beginning to end, while he was at Paris Island. He's jumped out of dozens and dozens of airplanes, including some HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) jumps at over 30,000 feet. He's fired a lot of different, big guns, including grenade launchers. He was trained how to clear a room, how to break into a prison and free a particular person, how to land in the ocean and get to the shore ready to fire as soon as he got there, how to plan the invasion of a beach. He's used those cool sleds that make for faster traveling under water. He did desert training for a few weeks. And there's a lot of stuff that over a decade and a half later, he still won't confirm or deny that he's done.

Sometimes we'll be watching something, and I'll ask Graham "have you ever fired a missile?" and he'll say something like "No! Why would you think I'd fire a missile?" "Well, you're the only one I know who has ever fired a grenade launcher...."

I don't ever feel particularly unsafe when we're together. I'm pretty sure if anyone ever even tried to hurt me, the bigger issue would be making sure that Graham doesn't kill.

I guess I could have started this post by saying, "Graham was a Marine," and then gotten to the point, which is about to follow. But, we watched all of Season 2 and 3 of Alias when we were in Taos and the weeks afterward, then watched all of Covert Affairs after we finished with Alias, and just yesterday started with season 3 of Chuck (having watched seasons one and two in record speed in the last two weeks). My pestering him about accuracy has happened a lot lately. BTW, he was really impressed with how they broke Sydney out of that NSA prison in season 3 of Alias. And I think he pretty much agrees with everything John Casey does in Chuck. It might be a Marine bias, though... And he wishes that Annie would learn better combat skills in Covert Affairs. It has been generally agreed upon that of all of the spies we've watched, I'm the most like Chuck,without the supercomputer in my brain. Graham is more like, well, take your pick of the more professional, former military type spies in those shows. At any rate, I end up asking questions of Graham a lot...

Anyhow, Graham was a Marine.

And when Graham was a Marine in the early 1990s*, the issue of gays in the military was a hot political topic. Clinton was thinking about opening up the ranks, and there was a lot of dissent. A LOT of dissent. And there were discussions. One, in particular, Graham happened to be at. And somehow or another, both CNN and the New York Times wanted to know what he thought about the issue.

This is what the New York Times said he said:
Lance Cpl. Graham Gaskill, a 22-year-old administrative clerk, was one of the few people in the audience to speak in support of the President. "I joined the Marine Corps on the premise that the men and women here were more educated, open-minded and not afraid to accept people who are different," he said after the meeting. "I just find it amazing that people in this day and age can be so ignorant."

Corporal Gaskill, who said he is heterosexual, said he was leaving the Marine Corps in the next month, partly because of the military's treatment of homosexuals.
It sort of baffles me that seventeen years later, this still even an issue.

I understand why the Administration wants to be measured. I understand that Congress has a shit ton of responsibility for the fact that the DADT is still in effect. I understand that it's the Justice Department's job to defend the laws of this country. But. Jesus Christ. If a 22 year old in 1993 could see how wrong this is, can't grown ups 17 years later figure it out too?

Graham knew a fair number of gays and lesbians who were also Marines. He knew most of them from his base, in fact, because he used to moonlight as a bouncer at the local gay bar. He said that so long as their guns were all facing the same direction, sexual orientation simply doens't matter. They were good Marines, he says. They served their country well. They were well integrated with their unit.

We've had gays and lesbians in our military as long as we've had a military. We just treat them like second-class citizens. We punish them based off of speculation, rumor, and we force them into hiding. What sort of honor is there in a military that actively encourages its members to lie about who they are?

Graham has done a lot of crazy shit for his country, but one of the things I'm proudest of is his marching in Washington for gay rights in 1993 while he was still in the Marines.** I only wish people had listened to him.

*Around the same time, I was a senior in college. I wrote a paper on the constitutionality of barring gays from the military for my Con Law class. Huh.

**My dad protested in Washington in 1969 and 1970 (he manned the first aid tent as a member of the Medical Committee for Human Rights) when he was in the Army. In uniform. I am dying to request both of their FBI files.

ETA: hmph. Graham says I can't have his FBI file.