National Guard Colonel, Decorated Vietnam Vet, Being Discharged
SEATTLE (AP) _ A decorated Vietnam veteran and National Guard colonel was told Thursday her military career is over because she is a lesbian - even though Guard officials want to keep her.
The discharge makes Col. Margarethe ″Greta″ Cammermeyer one of the highest-ranking soldiers ever removed from the service because of homosexuality, said Lt. Col. Doug Hart, a Pentagon spokesman.
In a private meeting Thursday with Maj. Gen. Greg Barlow, the Washington National Guard commander, Cammermeyer was officially given orders that she be honorably discharged from the Guard and Army Reserve on June 11, said Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Joe Jimenez.
Earlier Thursday, Cammermeyer had said: ″I may not be able to serve my country in uniform, but maybe I can serve by standing up and being counted.″
Gov. Booth Gardner and members of the state’s congressional delegation have written to Defense Secretary Dick Cheney to protest the dismissal. Washington National Guard officials also say they want to keep Cammermeyer, 50, the Guard’s chief nurse.
″Our sentiment is that we would prefer to keep her as a member of the National Guard - we value her skills and talent and professionalism,″ Jimenez said.
Barlow praised Cammermeyer’s work, but told the Morning News Tribune of Tacoma on Wednesday he must carry out Defense Department policy.
″Does that make it easy for me to look the woman in the eye and announce that? No, it doesn’t,″ he said.
A federal recognition board, convened in July, recommended that Cammermeyer be honorably discharged. The board said its recommendations could be re- examined if the Pentagon changes its policy barring homosexuals from the military.
At this point, Cammermeyer said, nothing less that intervention by Cheney or President Bush could save her military career.
Cammermeyer said she would fight the action in court. ″This regulation is wrong,″ she said from American Medical Lake Veterans Hospital, where she works as clinical nurse specialist in neurosciences.
Cammermeyer, who was married for 16 years and has four sons, said she disclosed she was gay in 1989 during an interview for a security clearance.
″I don’t think it was until that top-security clearance investigation that I could say and believe, ’This is who I am,‴ she said.
Although the Washington National Guard has no policy barring homosexuals, the U.S. military does, and Cammermeyer said it’s clear her disclosure makes her ineligible for military service.
The Pentagon considers homosexuality ″incompatible with military service,″ and holds that it adversely affects discipline, morale and integrity of command, said Hart, the Pentagon spokesman.
Soldiers need not engage in homosexual acts to be dismissed - just admitting the sexual orientation violates regulations, Hart said.
″Initially ... there was the denial - this can’t happen in this country, with my record,″ said Cammermeyer, who received a Bronze Star for meritorious service during the Vietnam War’s Tet offensive.
Cammermeyer, who holds a doctorate in nursing, has been in the military for 26 years - with a brief sojourn in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when women with children were not permitted to serve.
The Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, which is providing legal representation, said it may challenge Cammermeyer’s dismissal.
Cammermeyer says she is ready for the legal battle and that her sons - ages 14 to 23 - stand behind her.
″There are a few times in our lives when we can stand up for what we believe,″ she said.