Group celebrates end of 'don't ask, don't tell'

September 21, 2011 11:50:55 AM PDT
The policy of ''don't ask, don't tell'' expired at midnight Tuesday and now gay men and women can serve the country openly. Some who left are now considering re-enlisting while others are just celebrating the change.

In Chicago, the American Veterans for Equal Rights will celebrate the end of the policy with a ceremony that includes the unfurling of a giant American flag.

"The world has changed in a very short time. Young people have changed the world for us all," Jim Darby said.

Darby was a Russian translator for the Navy in the 1950s. He left a promising military career because he says he could not serve and be openly gay.

"I so enjoyed my job, but I didn't want to get a dishonorable whatever," Darby said.

Cari Bausone was a third class petty officer in the 1950s until a girlfriend outed them both and she was asked to leave.

"It was very hurtful, [for] many, many years. Still is," Bausone said. "I didn't think it would come in my lifetime. I had my 74th birthday and to see all these things happening. I think of all the friends I've lost, and how wonderful it would be for them to be here and see this."

Veronica Hernandez will celebrate with the Service Members Legal Defense Network Tuesday night.

"To actually have it in place that you can serve openly is monumental," Hernandez said.

Hernandez served two years in the Air Force. When she wasn't allowed to visit her injured girlfriend, Hernandez says it was time to leave. She hopes the repeal of "don't ask don't tell" will leave an opening for her to return to military in the reserves.

"I'm dying to get back in the uniform, to walk alongside service members. It's really, really huge," Bausone said.

At 38, Hernandez hopes to get an age waiver to join the reserves. She was openly gay before joining the Air Force, but "don't ask, don't tell" went into effect while she was serving.

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