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We've seen much about the push to end the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Most of this agenda is motivated by Democrats. Since institution of the policy almost 20 years ago, many on the left have been clamoring to allow gays to serve openly in the military, but the drumbeat is increasing. Unfortunately, new rhetoric has taken a turn by making villains of those in the military holding biblical convictions.

Celebrities like "Lady Gaga" have joined the chorus, both demanding open gay service and insisting those with opposing biblical convictions leave. A certain liberal general officer, while speaking to European leaders, chimed in with the new demand: "They need to get with the program (the new policy allowing open gay service) or get out." As someone with 20 years of service in peace and war, I find this rhetoric to be ominous. Let me explain.

First, military groups/units are far more than the sum of personnel and equipment. In dealing with the profession of arms, "morale" is the most important indicator of true combat effectiveness. When George S. Patton took over II Corps after the U.S. defeat at Kasserine Pass, his mission was to quickly turn that unit around to continue the fight against the Nazis. It seemed an impossible task, as this was the first time American troops had faced the German Army and this defeat had destroyed the confidence of U.S. troops. Patton's primary focus was not on material or personnel numbers. His focus was on the morale of II Corps. He came in "hard nosed" and enforced a number of seemingly small disciplinary measures: Proper uniforms, punctuality, etc. His plan was to build pride in the unit and confidence throughout the ranks. Within weeks, II Corps was able to successfully fight the German Army, pushing them out of North Africa and into Sicily.

I bring up the issue of morale because it's at the heart of the question of open homosexuality in the ranks. We build the leadership of our military at places like West Point, The Naval Academy and The Citadel. Centuries of experience go into the training regimen, taking a civilian 18-year-old and making him into a combat leader. Those who will face death must be solidly grounded in a "code" that becomes the backbone of the future unit. The code from West Point is "Duty, Honor, Country." Other academies are similar. For 230 years, that code is what has brought the disciplined morale needed to help individuals in units face death.

As all polls indicate, military leaders are far more conservative than the rest of American society. Likewise, they are far more likely than civilian counterparts to be evangelical Christian. This comes down to the issue of living, and dying, by a code. The Bible offers the ultimate code for living a disciplined life and many of our military leaders (and followers) draw their strength from that code. Up until the mid-1970s, the military openly recognized the importance of a strong Christian base among our military leaders. Up until that time, cadets at all military academies marched to chapel on Sunday. Due to the liberal Supreme Court decisions in the 1960s, this practice was ended as being unconstitutional. Despite this change, a substantial proportion of our military leadership continues to follow the biblical code of life.

The left now realizes that allowing open homosexuality in the military does not comport with those holding biblical views. This has always been the obstacle to ending "don't ask, don't tell." At first, the liberal argument was for everyone to "just get along" whether or not one agreed with homosexual practices. However, it became quickly apparent this wouldn't work and that ending "don't ask" would mean problems for many holding to the Bible. The left can talk about numbers and try to convince America that our military numbers will not change. What they cannot talk about with authority is the issue of morale, which will clearly be affected during the exodus of evangelical Christian leaders.

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National security must trump social experimentation. Both the left and right realize two polar opposite groups cannot exist in the U.S. military. Citizens, whether veteran or not, have a duty to speak up in this debate and say "no." We will not push out the backbone of our military strength, those living by a Biblical code, just to allow the experiment of open homosexuality. It just isn't right, and our children will not have a second chance to fix it.

- Bill Connor, Orangeburg

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