I grew up in Queens NY and attended St.Francis Prep School. I played tennis and ran some track, but I excelled in school. I wanted to be a biomedical engineer until the offer of appointment from the Naval Academy arrived. My family was so proud, and I was so excited to be Naval Officer.
My plebe year was a very positive experience. I was so impressed with my company officer that I followed his path in to nuclear submarines. At the academy, I was a varsity cheerleader. I graduated with a BS in Marine Engineering and in 1990 reported to the USS PARCHE (SSN 683), a long-hull STURGEON class in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was during these Clinton years that I came out to myself and came out in 1992 on-board my submarine.
Coming out on my sub was nothing like I expected. My CO and XO were really not phased at all, and they were mostly concerned about missing me on the next mission. My resignation papers were already in, and my CO asked if I could wait out the next four months until my resignation date. He knew that once he told the higher-ups that he would have to send me off the boat. It took all I had to admit I was gay to my CO, and I wanted everyone to know about it. At the time, “gays in the military” was discussed everyday in every compartment of the sub in a negative way. I needed everyone to know that I was the guy they were talking about when they said they would not let gay guys on their boat.
The day after I told my CO I was gay, my sub pulled into port, and I stayed onboard that night to shut down the reactor. I went home the next morning, then was called later and told to report to a shore duty job. I spent the next few months working for the PARCHE, but never getting on board again. During this time, almost all of the men who had reported to me in my various PARCHE duties came by to tell me they didn’t care I was gay. They said that the enjoyed working with me, and they all wished me well. I never expected such support. All of my officer friends on board the PARCHE and from the Naval Academy supported me, and I am still in contact with most today. I am sure not everyone was on my side, but no one ever directly approached me with anything negative to say.
I know I am one of the lucky ones, but I am confident more and more officers and enlisted each day feel less threatened by serving alongside gay men and women. I will never regret missing the few months on-board my sub in exchange for educating my boat on what it is like to serve with a gay man. The education was simply that there was “no difference.”
I recently received a letter from an enlisted man on the board the PARCHE that I would like to share:
where to start…
I was in Reactor Control division, a smart-ass, sometimes arrogant, good little Christian boy that couldn’t stop rocking the boat on issues like “gays in the military”. You and I had a mustache growing contest once. After three days, you remarked, “damn it, you shaved”… but I hadn’t… I was just a slow mustache grower.
I remember the day before you resigned. I’m pretty sure you were on watch as EOOW, and you took some time to sit in Auxiliary Machinery Room 2 Upper Level. You weren’t talking with anybody, and you looked pretty upset. I was on watch, doing my rounds. I wondered if it was the fact that Alderman and you had argued in maneuvering. He was one of the Reactor Operators who took joy in getting people pissed off.
I’m not sure the entire extent of the correct facts of the story as it came back to us little enlisted types following your departure. But we heard that you resigned, only a few months before your end of obligated service, because you wanted to make sure to “make a point” that working with gays in the military wasn’t an issue. We had all worked with you, honored by your professionalism… and sexuality wasn’t as big of a deal as everybody was making it out to be.
Of course, the story continues – as I started dating another guy in my division. Lived in a self-loathing shame for a long time, spending seven years trying to become straight in the church. However, just more than five years ago, my life changed. I came out to myself and family and have been on a continuous growth journey since then. I’m afraid I have a long way to go. ? ……
Why did I look you up?
I wanted to drop a note, and let you know you were a catalyst in my growing up. I appreciate your leadership and presence as an officer aboard the old boat. There are a lot of people that have little touches in my life over the last twenty years – and I just wanted you to know you were on the list.
Thank you, Lou!