LGBT Experience

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- I left for Air Force Basic Military Training on May 11, 2015. I left behind most of my immediate family, the love of my life, Joseph, and our two dogs. The six hour drive to the Military Entrance Processing Station was filled with every emotion ranging from anxious to excitement. An overnight stay at a hotel and a few flights later, I landed in San Antonio, Texas.

I got off that plane not knowing what to expect for the next eight weeks. I had close to a full pack of cigarettes in my pocket and chain smoked those until the bus pulled up. I threw the remainder away and got a taste of what was to come when a Military Training Instructor stepped off the bus. The days that followed are still a blur and I can hardly recall what happened. I remember receiving a few pieces of military clothing and meeting the MTIs who were assigned to our flight. There was a lot of yelling and learning of basic military etiquette. The “dorms” as they called them felt more like guarded concrete structures.

Now, I went there knowing I didn’t want to give off any indication of being gay for the sole reason that everyone in my flight was male. During my time there I made many close friends, some I still speak with today. I thought I was doing extremely well with keeping it a secret until letters upon letters from Joseph showed up every day. The MTI handed out letters that had been written to us in the dayroom in front of the entire flight. I didn’t really think anything suspicious of it until someone approached me asking who Joseph was. I was taken back at first because I hadn’t mentioned his name at all during this time; so I played it off and said he was a good friend of mine. Eventually Joseph sent me an album’s worth of photographs of our dogs, family, and him. I knew right away this was going to be a little harder to explain. Luckily they weren’t inappropriate in any way. That was when my MTI learned that I was gay. He didn’t ask any questions about it so I assumed it was probably more of a closed door conversation that his leadership was having.

I can’t remember the day but a few of my flight members approached me as we were doing laundry. The barrage of questions on why I had pictures of this guy and who exactly was he that followed were draining so I stuck with the “good friends” story because that was the first thing I thought of. I later thought that if I said he was family, it would have been a more believable story.

BMT ended eight weeks later. Joseph, my sister, and mother were present. It was an extremely emotional experience running with my flight, and I was excited to be done with training. A few of the close friends I made learned about who Joseph truly was and they had no problems with it. I think ultimately I wanted to say I hid Joseph out of respect of the others in the flight but, partly it was because I was scared since not many people knew about us. I left for technical school basically a week after BMT. I was hoping for an extended flight or even the longest bus ride you could imagine. What I got was a fifteen minute ride to Ft. Sam Houston. Now technical school was a lot more relaxed and until then I didn’t have any idea what my career field was. I came in open general because my recruiter told me it was a better idea, he lied. I can’t be too upset because I still got a medical job and that’s what I wanted.. I studied and worked out a lot and was relieved to be able to talk to Joseph, my family, and friends every day. As we were getting closer to graduation, I found out that a girl that was in my class had also got the same assignment, Ramstein, Germany. My first thought was, “I have to get rid of this.” I tried to get a new assignment and it would have worked, however Joseph and I talked about it and said “let’s do it!”

The Status of Forces Agreement between Germany and the United States allowing same sex couple to be stationed here was extremely new. I spoke with a woman at the assignments office and was told that I’d be able to bring my husband I was so excited! She later came back to me and said that I’d have to finish my entire tour without him. We went back and forth on this subject for a few days before I finally got notified that he was coming at a later time I would have just amend my orders when I got here. I can’t begin to explain the terror I felt those days, it was hands down the worst three days of my life. We all agreed on them taking him off my orders and just amending my orders when he had received a SOFA passport.

If they would have told me months before or even weeks that this was mandatory for him to have a SOFA Passport to come to Germany with me; I would have relayed the message telling him to get it. They never told me anything about this passport until a week before I was supposed to leave. In the end, everything worked out like it should have and we’ve been happily together ever since. A few odd looks when I go to pick up his medication or make an appointment for him. I will gladly take getting funny looks over him not being here.