It isn’t easy for me to wake up before noon on any given day—and that’s being generous. So, when Stephen Loveless, our GSA President, asked for volunteers to help set up over 800 flags on the Cannon Greens this morning, I wasn’t the first to volunteer for this 8AM shift. Sitting through our Executive Board meeting on Monday night and planning out the events that would lead up to UWF hosting the Human Rights Campaign’s Voices of Honor tour on Wednesday, however, made me a little more enthusiastic about pulling myself out of bed this morning.
I was only about 10 minutes late, and as soon as I arrived, I set to work with about twenty other GSA members setting small American flags in the ground. Each flag represents one of the 800 specialists with vital skills who have been discharged from the military under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy—this is a small fraction of the 13,500 servicemen who have been discharged overall since the policy was enacted in 1992. After about two hours, we had finally finished the visual aid of today’s event.
The rest of the afternoon, volunteers worked with two goals in mind. First, a station was set-up at which passers-by could briefly fill out a postcard that the Human Rights Campaign will be sending in to Florida Senator Bill Nelson in order to show him that there is vast opposition to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in his region. In a more immediate effort, a second station was dedicated to asking students walking by the Cannon Greens to take two minutes out of their lives to call Bill Nelson’s office and personally urge the Senator to support the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. (While callers might not reach the Senator directly, Bill Nelson’s receptionist makes a tally each time a constituent calls the office to share his or her opinion.)
Several of us ventured to the sidewalks, University Commons, and shady trees near the Cannon Greens to stop students, faculty, and staff on their way to class or lunch to solicit signatures and phone calls. Then, I brought a petition sheet to my Adulthood & Aging class to collect even more signatures to send to Senator Nelson. The Gay-Straight Alliance will also have a table set up in the Commons tomorrow before the big event at 7:00, when Voices of Honor will take place in the Conference Center at UWF.
Today alone, I’ve gotten to share details of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy with tens of people who were previously unsure what the legislation entails. Education and advocacy are extremely important to me, and particularly when it comes to this issue. One of my closest friends is a gay veteran, and it frustrates me beyond belief that his sexual orientation alone could jeopardize the stability of his military career. Thankfully, the members of my Gay-Straight Alliance have really gotten behind pushing for the repeal of DADT, promoting the Voices of Honor tour, and helping with everything else that the Human Rights Campaign has been advocating surrounding this issue. I’m extremely proud of the hard work everyone’s put into this issue in the past few weeks, and I’m confident that we are helping to make a difference.