Showing posts with label Navy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Navy. Show all posts

June 3, 2015

First Openly Gay Navy Seal Talks About his Coming Out


 Brett Jones, left, the first openly gay Navy SEAL, plays basketball with his husband, Jason White, and their son, Ethan, 13, outside their Alabama home. David Zucchino Los Angeles Times/TNS

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/gay-south-florida/article22780368.html#storylink=cpy


For years, Brett Jones lived a double life. He was a Navy SEAL, a muscular M-60 gunner trained to kill and survive in enemy territory. He was also gay.
He held his secret close, so close that his SEAL teammates – his closest friends – never suspected. Jones was careful to introduce his male lover, a Navy sailor, as his roommate. He persuaded an attractive friend to pose as his girlfriend whenever the SEALs threw parties.
But one day in 2002, Jones accidentally outed himself. He left an “I love you” phone message for his lover – a stupid mistake, he realized the instant he hung up.
A sailor heard it and turned him in. The Navy launched an investigation designed to dishonorably discharge him.
That mistake led Jones here, to the deeply conservative Bible Belt country of north Alabama, to a brick ranch home on Drury Lane he shares with his husband, Jason White, a burly former police detective and self-professed country boy raised in northern Alabama. The two men are parents to Ethan, a precocious 13-year-old known in the flat, clay and pine country as the only kid in school with two gay dads.
The first openly gay SEAL has built a new life here at age 41 with a family that has replaced the two families he lost – the one that raised him and the one he built with fellow SEALs. Both his parents and the Navy banished him because he’s gay.
On this steamy night, the two gay parents and their straight son are sweating and shoving as they fight to win a roughhouse driveway basketball game called Cheater Ball. That’s followed by shooting practice at a dirt berm in the backyard – a .357 pistol for Ethan, a 12-gauge shotgun for Jones and a Colt M4 carbine for White.
And then Ethan launches a home experiment, constructing a camp stove from a beer can and rubbing alcohol. Flames erupt from the contraption as it boils a pot of water on the kitchen counter.
The three of them horse around, joking and teasing like teenagers. They are close, and necessarily so, since a gay marriage – not to mention gay parenting – is viewed with deep suspicion and outright hostility in perhaps the most anti-gay state in the country.
When Jones and White attend Ethan’s baseball games, they say, coaches and other parents barely speak to them. There are loud whispers and hard stares. No one will sit with them.
“I just want to tell them: ‘It’s not contagious, man. You’re not going to catch it,’ ” Jones says, drawing cackles from White and Ethan.
The parents of Ethan’s friends refuse to allow them to spend the night in the house Jones and White built together in little Toney, population 13,000. But the friends are allowed to stay over with Ethan when he’s at the home of his mother, White’s ex-wife.
School is worse, the family says. It’s a rural county school, almost entirely white and deeply conservative. In science class one day, White says, a teacher stressed that marriage was strictly between a man and a woman. Teachers and students pass Bible verses to Ethan.
“They’re telling him we’re sinners and need help,” White says. “I tell Ethan: ‘Try not to look at them as being hateful. They care about your soul, but they just don’t know any better.’ ”
Jones is accustomed to rejection. When he was in high school, his mother, a devout Christian, overheard his phone conversation with a gay friend.
The next day, Jones says, his parents confronted him. His father, an Air Force pilot, was wearing his blue dress uniform. He was livid. He asked his son, “Brett, are you a homosexual?”
Jones, caught off-guard, denied it at first. But they knew.
“My mom told me homosexuals go straight to hell,” Jones says. “My dad said he wasn’t going to have me infecting our family with that disease.”
They kicked him out. He spent the night in a cheap motel, contemplating suicide. Not long after that, he joined the Navy, serving for 10 years.
It took Jones two tries to pass the Navy’s punishing physical, psychological and emotional tests to qualify as a SEAL, a unit so elite that at least three-quarters of applicants wash out. He had served for six years and two deployments on demanding, secretive missions when his homosexuality was discovered.
It was the “don’t ask, don’t tell” era. Jones, a quarter master 2nd class, lost his security clearance. He was interrogated by a military lawyer who demanded he confess to being gay. He was forbidden to associate with his SEAL teammates unless he was escorted by a Navy master of arms.
His closest SEAL buddies supported him. But other SEALs ostracized him. They gossiped about him, ridiculing gays and saying a homosexual SEAL would destroy unit cohesion.
The Navy dropped its investigation after Jones enlisted a national group that advocates for gays in the military, and after members of Congress intervened. But he knew his SEAL career had been irrevocably destroyed, and he decided not to re-enlist. He quietly left the Navy in 2003.
For years afterward, Jones kept quiet. Then he fell in love with White, who had come out to fellow cops at age 25 in nearby Athens, Ala. White proposed on Christmas morning in 2011, presenting Jones with a ring he and Ethan had picked out. Last December, they drove to Indiana to be married by a court clerk.
White, 37, had lived his own secret, tormented life growing up in Athens, where gays were ridiculed and demonized. His father cracked jokes about homos and fags.
The day White decided to come out, he says, “I told my dad and he stood up and I was bracing for a punch. Instead, he gave me a hug.” His father apologized for all his gay slurs over the years.
White and his brother, Matt, helped convince Jones to self-publish a memoir, “Pride: The Story of the First Openly Gay Navy SEAL,” released in October.
Writing the book helped heal the pain of scorn and rejection, but Jones has neither forgotten nor forgiven the Navy. “They treated me like a criminal,” he says. “I was humiliated.”
He misses his life in the SEALs. “I loved it. I thrived in it. It was my whole life. The bonds I made with those guys was the family I had always wanted,” he says. “I hated lying to them.”
Both White and Jones embrace the holy pursuits of Southern males. They have a safe full of guns and a weight room in the garage. They take Ethan shooting, fishing, hiking and camping. Ethan is taking flying lessons. He wants to be a pilot and an industrial engineer. He says he loves both his dads – he calls White “Dad” and Jones “Brett.”
Jones and White want to sell the house and move Ethan to a public school in nearby Huntsville, which they call “a progressive island” in a state so hostile to gay marriage that its chief Supreme Court justice ordered counties to disobey a federal court order in February permitting gay marriage.
The family feels comfortable in Huntsville, home to scientists and engineers from across the country who work in defense and aerospace. Dads and son attend a Unitarian-Universalist church there and say they have been warmly welcomed. Jones and White own a private security service in the city.
Ethan is convinced he and his dads will be accepted at the Huntsville school. “I’m counting the days,” he says.
Not everyone in rural Madison County is hostile. Some of the neighbors have been friendly and supportive. “We have the only tornado shelter on the street,” White cracks.
Still, they don’t expect a gay pride parade in Toney anytime soon. “Of course, every day I take a drive is a gay pride parade,” White says.
The clients of their security company don’t particularly care that it’s owned and managed by two gay men, White says. The two are a former SEAL and former cop, after all, and Jones served for years as a security contractor in Afghanistan and Iraq after leaving the Navy.
Today, Jones is active in the Trevor Project, which operates 24-hour suicide hotlines for troubled lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people. He also volunteers with the American Military Partner Association, which advocates for LGBT service members. He gets several messages a week from young gays, some in the military, who are battling depression and discrimination.
A young, gay military officer recently wrote him from Singapore, where homosexuality is illegal. He thanked Jones for “being someone I can identify with and aspire to be like.”
Jones says he has finally reconciled with his mother, though he and his father are not close and only talk by phone a few times a year.
“I love her and she loves me, but we just agree to disagree,” he says of his mother. They never discuss Christianity or “the gay thing,” Jones says.
Cathy Jones, who lives in Austin, Texas, says she loves and admires her son for his honesty and courage.
“I’m a very strong Christian, so it was a very hard adjustment for me,” she says. “I had to come to a place where I could love him and still not agree with him. Now we each accept the other one’s choices in life. I’m all right with the way he is.”
She laughs and recalls Brett’s reckless boyhood. “I was afraid he’d end up in the penitentiary or the graveyard,” she says. “He was a little stinkpot – impulsive, a real daredevil.
“That’s why he did so well in the SEALs,” she adds.
Cathy Jones says she loves Ethan and considers him her grandson. She calls White, her son-in-law, “a wonderful person.”
Jones closed his book with an open letter to Ethan: “No matter what the state of Alabama or anyone else says, we are and always will be a family. … You and your dad make being a father and a husband the most remarkable and unexpected accomplishment of my life.”
On Drury Lane, dinner is almost ready. Jones is coating chicken with chipotle sauce. White is chopping broccoli.
Ethan tries another experiment: making a light bulb from a glass, wire, eight batteries, duct tape and lead filament.
Ethan tapes the batteries to the wire and hooks it to the filament with alligator clips. Nothing happens. His two dads tease him mercilessly.
But moments later, the filament is glowing bright red, lighting up the glass.
Jones wraps his son in a bear hug. “I never doubted you,” he tells him.


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/gay-south-florida/article22780368.html#storylink=cpy

February 11, 2015

Submariner and his Partner Chosen for ‘Ceremonial First Kiss’ at Docking


                                                                             
                                                                

A San Diego man and his partner were the first male same-sex couple to be chosen for the ceremonial first kiss during the homecoming of submarine warship USS San Francisco.
Thomas Sawicki and his boyfriend Shawn Brier were the lucky couple chosen to share the first kiss off the ship as the fast-attack submarine reunited with its home port at Naval Base Point Loma Monday afternoon. Families lined the dock awaiting the arrival of husbands, sons, dads and brothers returning from a seven-month stint in the Western Pacific. 

"Everyone was cheering for me when they announced it over email," Sawicki said. "Everyone was very excited, very supportive, very happy."
The seven-month WestPac deployment was the first for the couple. Sawicki’s boyfriend said he was nervous. Thomas Sawicki (R) and his boyfriend Shawn Brier answer questions from a San Diego local television news reporter after the ceremonial "First Kiss" at the homecoming for USS San Francisco. (Published Tuesday, Feb 10, 2015)
"I don't want to screw it up and fall in the water or something," Brier said.
The American Military Partner Association, a support network for LGBT couples in the military, praised the choice as a milestone for “modern military families.” 

"Since the repeal of the discriminatory 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' law, we've made tremendous progress as a community and as a nation in our pursuit of liberty and justice for all Americans," said the American Military Partner Association President Ashley Broadway-Mack. "Although we still have progress to make, moments like these remind us just how far we've come."
Dozens of other local families were reunited Monday afternoon as well.
The Los-Angeles class nuclear sub has quite a history. After smashing into an underwater mountain at full speed in 2005, killing one and injuring 97 sailors, $134 million was spent to fix it before finding its home port here in San Diego.
It's the second oldest warship submarine in the fleet, according to the ship's captain, and it's due to be converted in a few years to serve as a training platform for newly recruited nuclear officers.


 http://www.nbcsandiego.com 

November 8, 2013

This Guy Takes in 18 inches like it was Water

The U.S. Navy’s attack submarine USS POGY (SSN 647) surfaces through 18 inches of Arctic ice. Standing lookout and perched high on the sail of the boat is Radioman Second Class Mark Sisson. While personnel are out on the ice, a lookout is continuously posted to scan the horizon for polar bear activity.…During the several thousand mile trek, the submarine collected data on the chemical, biological, and physical properties of the Arctic Ocean, and conducted experiments in geophysics, ice mechanics, pollution detection, and other areas…11/05/1996”
 Camera Operator: PH2 Steven Vanderwerf

July 31, 2013

The US Navy Seals Have A very Capable Transgender Seal

Chris Beck in Iraq, and as Kristin 
Chris Beck spent 20 years operating in secret behind enemy lines as an elite US Navy Seal. But the highly-decorated serviceman was always hiding a deeper, personal secret - since early childhood, he felt he was a female born into a male body.
As a Navy Seal, Chris Beck's world was tough, macho, sometimes violent. He took part in covert missions from the Pacific Ocean to the Middle East and fought alongside members of Britain's SAS on the Shatt al-Arab waterway near Basra during the 2003 war in Iraq.
But in February, more than a year after retiring from the US Navy, he replaced the photograph on his LinkedIn profile with one of a tall brunette in a white blouse smiling in front of the Stars and Stripes and wrote "I am now taking off all my disguises and letting the world know my true identity as a woman." Chris had become Kristin.
As she awaited the reaction from her former brothers-in-arms, Kristin knew there was no going back from her decision to go public.
Navy Seals on operations
US Navy Seals are sent on some the most difficult and dangerous military operations in the world. One of Kristin Beck's former units, the US Naval Special Warfare Development Group - also known as Seal Team 6 - went on to carry out the mission that killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan in May 2011.
 the Seal teams” 
The Navy Seal code demands that fighters uphold the unwavering values of loyalty, integrity and trust. Kristin feared some fellow Seals would accuse her of dishonouring that code by coming out as transgender.
While some did find the decision difficult to accept, the response was overwhelmingly positive. "A lot of them said 'Kris - I really don't understand what you're going through but I know where you've been,'" she told the BBC.
"My Seal team brothers said, 'you stood the watch in the field for 20 years and you did a great job. I don't understand it one bit but I support you 100% and I hope I can learn more about this and see you at the next reunion.'"
Chris Beck during his time as a Navy Seal
Knowing the news would eventually spread beyond the tightly-knit Navy Seal community, Kristin decided to tell her story before someone else did.
 She co-wrote a book, Warrior Princess: A US Navy Seal's Journey to Coming Out Transgender, with Anne Speckhard, a professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University in Washington DC. It charts her childhood in a religious and socially conservative household, her attempts to suppress her gender identity by secretly buying and then discarding women's clothes, and her two failed marriages. 
"I was trying to live three lives," Kristin says. "I had a secret life with my female identity, I had my secret life with the Seal teams and then I had my home life and what I would show my wife and children or parents and friends.
"People would see snippets of the real me but for the most part nobody really got to know me."
US Navy Seals on operations
The rapid and aggressive tempo of special forces operations following the attacks of 11 September 2001, combined with an emotional life which she says was "totally squashed", took its mental toll on Kristin and she developed post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
She says that for years she dealt with the psychological impact of "so much death, so much pain" through "beer, motorcycles, more beer".
Yet she says coming out as transgender has had a "dramatic impact" on her PTSD symptoms. "I'm not as angry and I sleep better just because I'm happier," she says.

 "So many people have said, 'Kris, for the first time in my life I've actually seen you smile.'"
The repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in 2011 ended the ban on openly gay men and women in the US military. That shift doesn't apply to transgender individuals, however, who can still be discharged if they are found out.
Kristin Beck believes that policy could, and should, change. She proposes allowing transgender service personnel to undergo gender reassignment in a military setting in return for extending their time in uniform once the process is complete.
"It's a human condition," she says. "The military needs to get past gender and look at people like me as a person, not just as a male or female, and understand that I can still do a great job. I may not be able to do all the jobs I was doing before but I can do something else. I could be an intelligence analyst or a security officer at a checkpoint.
"None of us are perfect. I'm not Conan the Barbarian and I'm not Barbie. We're all different."
Kristin says she would have preferred to go through her continuing gender transition in private, rather than in the glare of attention that has inevitably followed the publication of her book.
She says, however, that she is approaching her new role as an unofficial spokeswoman for the transgender community with the same "warrior spirit" - a sense of leadership and commitment to duty despite the odds - that defined her military career.
"I think I've saved some lives. I've had some heart-wrenching emails from people who are caught up in pain and prejudice and that does make it worthwhile," she says.
"I've also had emails from straight men who have said 'thank you for your service for our country. I never understood what this was but now I do.'"
"Fear of the unknown is the biggest problem and I think reading my book has helped break down that fear for many people," Beck says. "I'm not going to hurt anyone and I'm not contagious. I'm just me.”

July 12, 2012

US Navy Carriers Will Carry No More Urinals } Instead Gender Neutral


 

BY CAMILLE BEREDJICK

 

 
For the first time ever, a new class of U.S. Navy carriers will set off with no urinals on board,reports the Navy Times.
Urinals are omitted from the Gerald R. Ford class of carriers, due to hit the fleet in 2015, as both a cost-saving measure and an attempt to make bathrooms more gender-neutral. Urinal-free ships allow the Navy to easily switch a bathroom's designation between male and female, helping the ship adapt to changing crews. The U.S. Navy has deployed women on ships since 1994, but every carrier built since then has included urinals.
In addition, urinals clog more than toilets and can cost more to maintain, Capt. Chris Meyer, manager of the Future Aircraft Carriers Program for the Naval Sea Systems Command, told CNN. Several sailors speaking on the condition of anonymity told the Navy Times that urinals were hard to clean and easily broken, and they were glad to see them go.
"There's a lot more at play in the design objectives than (making the toilet areas) gender-neutral," Meyer told CNN. "We're saving money in maintenance costs, and we’re improving quality of life."
Other quality-of-life updates to the carrier's design include sleeping quarters — known as berthing areas — directly connected to a toilet and shower, so sailors who wake in the middle of the night won't have to get dressed and cross a passageway to reach the nearest restroom.



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