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Army Secretary John McHugh; his chief of staff, Gen. George Casey; Defense Secretary Robert Gates; and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen admonished Lt. Gen. Benjamin Mixon for exercising his First Amendment right to write a letter to Stars and Stripes ("Let your views be known," March 8), supporting the continuation of the 1993 law barring [open] homosexuals from the military and urging people to write their elected officials against any changes. Their statements chill the rights of all military personnel.

Servicemembers have freedom-of-expression rights under Department of Defense Directive 1344.10, which says they may encourage others to exercise their voting franchise, sign a petition for a specific legislative action, and write a letter to the editor expressing their views on public issues, and Directive 5122.11, which authorizes publication of Stars and Stripes.

When one writes a letter to the editor, the writer is acting in his or her personal, not official, capacity, unless otherwise stated. Your paper requests that writers provide their name, rank, military status and location to reflect the writer’s level of military expertise, but not current position — as that would imply official capacity. I recommend you add a disclaimer on your editorial page saying "Letters from military personnel are expressing their personal views and are not written in their official capacities unless so stated. Military rank and branch of service are used only to reflect the writer’s level of military expertise."

Please post on your website links to the two congressional websites (https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml and http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm) so all servicemembers can express their views, pro or con, on gays in the military and any other issues. If any group should be able to easily write their congressmen, it should be the people who defend our country. It would also be in line with the spirit and intent of Directive 1344.10.

Cmdr. Wayne L. Johnson (retired)Alexandria, Va.

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