Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Retired USAF Colonel Dan Tepfer's Reflections on the Signing of the Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell

This morning I had the great honor of attending President Obama’s Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell bill signing ceremony. When my daughter came out and I became more and more involved in PFLAG, I realized that advocacy was where I could work best. Then late in 2008, Steve Ralls, challenged me to put my money where my mouth was; I should advocate for repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. As I became more and more involved, I remembered that while on active duty, my boss (a full colonel) said that if I needed his help to get something done, that I could always refer to him. In effect I was to put on his eagles and plow ahead to get what I needed. It was now 20 years later and I had my own eagles (as a retired USAF Colonel) and I decided to use them. I feel that the op eds, the letters to the editor, the appearances representing PFLAG to such events as Diversity Day luncheons, or to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) event on the Capitol steps was my way of using my “eagles” to cry for repeal. What could be stronger then a retired senior United States Air Force officer calling for repeal?

This morning there was loud cheering and shouting when the President was introduced. What a great feeling! The President started by telling the story of how a solider saved his friend at the battle of the Bulge in 1945. The saved soldier did not learn until a reunion many years later that he had been saved by a gay soldier. He then introduced the VIPs on the stage. Members of congress were there, Marine Sgt. Eric Alva, but it was Rep. Murphy (D-PA) who got a standing ovation for his effort to reintroduce repeal just last week. When he introduced Admiral Mullen, President Obama quoted the Admiral’s comments last spring that “people in the military sacrifice a lot, but they should never have to sacrifice their integrity.” The admiral also had earlier gotten a standing ovation when he was introduced by the VP.

Often I have felt that I did not do enough in the fight for repeal. I was there when someone, or an organization asked me to give an update on the repeal or explain how things were going, to represent PFLAG, or their chapter at an event. I spoke out, posted regularly on my Facebook page. But I was not involved 24/7 as so many others have been. It was not something if not repealed was going to have a great impact upon me as it was to so many others there today. But as I greeted people this morning and as I mentioned a name or saw someone I have met along the way, that recognized me and who introduced me to their friends, I realized that I had done something to help make this happen. I had a stake in the success of the repeal, however small. As the tears dropped from my cheek, I felt proud to be on the right side of the fight.

My active duty experience was before DADT. But early in my career, I remember being cautioned that if we were engaged in any homosexual activity we would be subject to dishonorable discharge. And if we were hiding the fact that we were homosexual we were subjecting ourselves to a position of being blackmailed for the classified information we were working with.

In closing, I will say that gays and lesbians were here yesterday, they are here today, and they will be tomorrow. Gays and Lesbians are serving now, they were serving yesterday and they will serve tomorrow. And after the repeal of DADT, some will serve openly, but none will serve in fear of losing their jobs and careers.

Watch the signing here:

Pictured with Dan Tepfer (middle) is Air Force Major Mike Almy discharged under DADT (left) and Lt. Colonel Victor Fehrenbach (right).


Steve Ralls said...


Thank you so much for everything you've done to get us to this historic moment. You are a hero - not only for your service to our country, but also for your passionate work on behalf of LGBT equality.

PFLAG is lucky to have you on the "front lines," and I was honored to work alongside you, too.

- Steve .

Annette said...

Dan, thank you so much for representing all of us PFLAG members at the signing this morning. Today was a great day and you were part of it!

Annette Gross
Indianapolis Chapter

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