Military dismissals on the basis of homosexuality "basically devastates people's lives," according to Peggy Johnson, a lesbian and former petty officer second class on the USS Puget Sound.
"Individuals and individual personalities handle things differently," Johnson said. "I kind of struggled. I wound up in Oklahoma and kind of struggled."
With the current war in Iraq more than four years old, and the armed forces stretched thin, the idea of allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military has gained some momentum.
Johnson, an Oklahoma City resident who served under a military policy that was much tougher on homosexuals than "don't ask, don't tell," knows what it's like to have the military probe into her sexual life.
During her time in service two decades ago, Johnson said the Naval Investigative Service looked into reports of two women engaging in homosexual acts on her ship.
"They started interviewing people and found this one woman who was supposedly gay," Johnson said. "There were about 15 of us out of about 100 women on the ship probably, and she turned in everybody's name and said, 'Here they are.' And what they did was they started calling us up to the NIS office, one by one, and basically started asking, 'Are you a homosexual?'"
Johnson didn't deny her homosexuality and consequently was honorably discharged.
"I don't think the policy has really changed what it's like for gays and lesbians in the military. It's not better," she said. "Deborah Benjamin