As a recently separated veteran of the U.S. Air Force, I felt compelled to comment on the issue of allowing gays to serve openly in the armed forces, especially in light of the controversy over Lt. Gen. Benjamin Mixon’s comments on the matter (“General rebuked for letter opposing repeal,” article, March 26).

I would submit that a general officer might not have the best feel for what troops on the ground are thinking. Typically at his position, people are more inclined to tell him what they think he wants to hear. That’s not his fault, of course, and he certainly has not put that sort of sycophantic behavior into practice with regard to what the president wants to hear. Unlike some who have taken the general to task on his letter (“Let your views be known,” March 8), however, I think an open discussion, while uncommon in military circles, ought to be encouraged in this case. The brass might find enlightening what their troops have to say. They’re certainly bound to receive a diverse array of opinions.

And really, that goes to the heart of why the ban ought to be lifted: The military, despite the uniforms and similar haircuts, is made up of as motley a group of people as the American public. If a white racist can serve alongside a black nationalist, or if a fundamentalist Christian can serve alongside a hard atheist, and still get the job done, why should it be any different between a homosexual and a homophobe? Why do opponents of the ban doubt the professionalism of our men and women in uniform on this one issue? Our differences don’t make us less disciplined or less cohesive; they make us uniquely American.

Do what’s right. Lift the ban and trust the members of the armed forces to be the professionals they’ve always been. We’ll all be better for it.

Darrell T. KochaNew Orleans

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