Protesters of the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” with reasoning rooted in religion, argue gays choose their lifestyle. Two letter writers (“Won’t choose to ‘deal with it’ ” and “Survey not a true assessment,” both Dec. 16) alleged, respectively, hypocrisy that muzzles Christian proselytizing while gays “parade” their choices and the invalidity of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” survey since Obama administration leaders favor repeal and therefore influenced those surveyed.

Until any faith’s scriptures tangibly illuminate the path to heaven, no one should use religious contexts as the basis for exclusion. Faith is a belief, and its unproven mystery provides for its appealing beauty. Military regulations dictate behavioral standards and are a tangible guideline.

That said, being gay is not chosen or wrong. Assuming it wrong categorizes it as deviant as shoplifting. Further, if gays choose, do straights too?

As for an inability to “share the good news,” one writer didn’t share an example of this repression but, in my career, I’ve never seen a holiday gathering denied a prayer or seen an admonishment for a biblical reference in a signature block, etc.

It was easy to see the letter writer’s use of “parade” and “sexual lifestyle choices” to paint imagery of flamboyant stereotypes. So male gays will suddenly flaunt feather boas and makeup? Gays aren’t caricatures. Military gays are just like us: reserved in dress, speech and patriotism. But when straights tell a story about loved ones, gays have to suppress similar stories or think twice of having a picture on their desks.

The idea that those surveyed were influenced runs counter to the unprecedented education levels of today’s military and to imply such naivete or inability to read instructions validating survey anonymity is absurd.

Fear not. Gays aren’t out to recruit straights, won’t blare Donna Summer songs at Organization Day, and won’t preclude the right of anyone to believe what they want and be who they are. Let that sink in.

Lt. Col. Brett Challenger

Yongsan, South Korea

Same old song at Christmas

As we approach the most joyous and, for many of us, the most sacred time of the year, our thoughts naturally turn to our loved ones, our friends, our colleagues — our brave troops.

We wish each other a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays according to our custom and almost instinctively say, write or sing “Peace on Earth, goodwill to men.”

But what do we say to our men and women who once again, for a ninth Christmas in a row, will be spending the holidays on foreign battlefields where “peace on Earth” and “goodwill to men” are just cruel incongruities?

What do we say to them since — just as during the past eight Christmases — our nation is still at war and there will be little joy and certainly no peace for the tens of thousands of our heroes who will be spending yet another Christmas in harm’s way, far from home, far from their loved ones?

And what do we say to the fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, husbands or wives who will spend yet another lonely Christmas remembering, praying, crying?

Last Christmas, I wished our warriors “a safe and speedy return home to their loved ones so they [would] be able to celebrate every Christmas henceforth as they celebrate this one in their thoughts, in their dreams and in their prayers.” Sadly, it appears that for so many that wish will have to be put on hold for yet another year.

Perhaps on this ninth Christmas as we run out of new, adequate words to express our gratitude and best wishes to our heroes we may be forgiven for borrowing from that classic “Christmas Song” and, paraphrasing a little bit, say:

“And so we’re offering this simple phrase,

To our heroes from Baghdad to Kandahar,

Although it’s been said many times, many ways,

A very Merry Christmas to you from afar.”

And to their loved ones back home, I hope that next Christmas we will not have to search for appropriate words to express our Christmas wishes to them, but that having their warriors back safely and lovingly in their midst will say it all.

I hope that — as the next Christmas approaches — our brave men and women serving our country in some remote and dangerous outpost will be able to loudly and joyously sing the hauntingly beautiful words from yet another classic Christmas song, “I’ll be home for Christmas,” but that such a joy will finally not be “only in their dreams.”

Maj. Dorian de Wind (retired)

Austin, Texas

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