I shouldn’t have to. I am normal, intelligent and very capable of serving & defending
my country, and am saddened that others couldn’t or wouldn’t see those qualities. I
did not have the opportunity to demonstrate this due to this discriminatory and
misguided law that has affected thousands within the armed forces. It is time that
we ALL have the opportunity to serve our country honorably and honestly. The time
to repeal DADT is not tomorrow or next year…It is NOW!”
As this evening’s adventures & discussions wind down, I have
a strong & confident felling that Walker Chad Burttschell’s
leadership, charm and inspiration are only beginning to
get started. Fire away Walker!
CLICK HERE for more Herb Sosa
For more info on Voices of Honor, HRC & DADT, visit: www.hrc.org
Photos courtesy of:
Juan Carlos Smirnoff, Walker Burttschell, Vanessa Brito & Herb Sosa
Copyright © AMBIENTE MAGAZINE. Do not reproduce without citing this source
because of their sexual orientation, including more than 60 Arabic linguists
and nearly 800 other service members in critical occupational fields.
One of the things Walker says he is most proud of is serving his country and
being a Marine. “The day I became a U.S. Marine was and forever will be the
greatest day of my life.
I entered my first duty station very proud and excited of what laid before me. For
the most part, most of my friends in the Marines knew that I was gay and never
did I get any homophobic vibes from them. Sadly, one day a friend of one of
my roommates threatened to out me to my Commanding Officer. I took his
threats seriously and realized that if I was Outed and discharged because of
DADT, my family would be extremely disappointed in me. At that time, I was not
out to them.”
Born and raised in upstate Florida, this man of Latino heritage was well aware
of what threats meant and the harm that came with them. At an early age, this
fair-skinned young man often heard derogatory and discriminatory references
tossed around to Latinos, blacks and gays in his small community. His own
family was singled out for being different, and this was not something Walker
wanted to confront or experience first hand by coming out. He didn’t even want
to speak Spanish for many years to avoid being the target of discrimination of
attacks. One day he had had enough. “Seeing the images in the media of 2
young gay teenagers in Iran being hung to death for being labeled as gay and
just wanting to love each other was more than I could take…I knew then and
there that I had to make a difference. I had to do something”
www.ambiente.us MAY | MAYO 2010
WALKER BURTTSCHELL, USMC Vet | Asking & Telling
By Herb Sosa
As Miami Beach peppered, salt & limed itself for yet another over the top 5 de mayo
celebration, Walker & I opted for an off the radar local bar to sit & talk. Having worked
with and followed his many recent public appearances in his mission to Repeal Don’t
Ask, Don’t Tell, I was clear about this Marines passion, focus and unwavering focus.
What I was not prepared for was the stories of his journey to get here, his increasing
thrust to get his message out across the country, or the adventurous evening ahead of
“I am a U.S. Marine and I was discharged because of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT). I
come from a very religious and ultra-conservative family, from which, many generations
have served in the military. It had always been my goal to one day serve as an officer in
the military and hopefully have a life long career doing so. The day after September
11th, I dropped out of college and enlisted in the Marine Corps. I felt an overwhelming
sense of duty and patriotism and felt a personal responsibility to enlist.” said Walker.
What is DADT?
Passed in 1993 under President Clinton, the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'
(DADT) law allows gay, lesbian, and bisexual service personnel to
serve in the armed forces as long as their sexual orientation is
not publicly disclosed or discovered. As of 2008, more than
13,000 men and women have been discharged from the military
MIAMI RIVER INN
Voices of Honor
And do something, he has. As part of the Voices of Honor national tour visiting over 26
cities this year alone, Walker participated in several press conferences & community
forums as a panelist to tell his story.
The national 'Voices of Honor' tour organized in 2005 by vets Jarrod Chlapowski and
Alexander Nicholson in association with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is an
effort to highlight the costs associated with serving under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," as told
through the experiences of gay and straight veterans who have lived and breathed this
archaic and painful law.
Most recently, Burttschell led the discussion at the first-ever, all Spanish Voices of
Honor event in the heart of Miami’s Little Havana district. Addressing a standing room
only crowd, Walker & fellow vets each told their stories of discrimination, conflict and
consequence due to DADT.
Cuando estaba en el segundo año de la Universidad, sucedió
la tragedia del 9/11 y senti una obligacion inmensa para
defender a mi pais. Al dia siguiente me apunte en el Marine
Corps y en solo unos meses ya estaba en bootcamp. Al
completar el entrenamiento, el dia que me dieron ese titulo de
marine, cuando me dijeron “good job Marine” , fue el dia mas
feliz y orgulloso de mi vida.
Nunca he sentido la necesidad de “publicar” mi sexualidad al
mundo entero. Pero la mayoria de mis amigos y compañeros
de trabajo sabian que yo era gay y eso nunca fue un problema.
Y estando en los Marines nunca tuve la impression de que
hubiese homophobia. Pero estaba equivocado. Y de eso me di
cuenta despues de casi un año de servicio en los Marines.
“I took the threats to out me to my Commanding Officer seriously and realized that very
possibly I would be dishonorably discharged because of DADT. I became extremely
depressed, reclusive and eventually suicidal. Being discharged and being outed to my
family was just not an option. I was hospitalized at Camp LeJeune's hospital and put on
suicide watch. I met with a psychiatrist and felt comfortable enough to admit my sexual
orientation to him, feeling confident that there existed some form of patient/physician
confidentiality. Sadly, it was his comments in my medical records that would out me to the
Just then, the intensity
of Walker’s story was
when a guy ran into
the bar we were at,
inside the door
have guns, they have
guns”. This was a
mere 10 feet from our
barstools, and without
kicked in and he was
halfway to the back
of the space, assuming a
defensive and protective position. As it turned out, it was a police bust, with multiple
officers, hookers & a pimp – just another night in the big city. So much for our quiet place
to talk- So much for just one round of drinks!
We decided to take the show on the road and met up with friends Vanessa & Lilly to shake
off our dramatic experience and celebrate at the Standard. The interview would have to
“Walker is a kind & passionate individual. He believes in what he believes in, and he
fights for what he believes is right. I respect that about him” said Vanessa Brito.
Heading the local & national Hispanic Media for the Voices of Honor Miami events,
Brito has had a chance to work first-hand with Walker, understand his passion, and
help to channel it ongoing. “His integrity, honesty and the injustice DADT has done to
him and thousands of other vets, is why I choose to work with him on this fight.” “His
energy, charm and infectious personality, is why I will keep helping and working with
him to Repeal DADT.” added friend and 5 de mayo conspirator, Lilly Chiu.
As our evening continued, somehow
seeing the over -caffeinated
crowds in Mexican hats all over
the streets seemed tame by
comparison to our earlier
experience, and we resumed our
“Thankfully, with God's help, I was able
to crawl out of this dark time in my life
and realize that my personal
experience could move the hearts
of millions. For years I've lied about who
I am and what has happened to me. I've
realized that there is nothing to be
ashamed of.” And with that, Lilly snagged a
Mariachi hat and placed it on Walkers head.
That cute smirk of his came out, he started to subtly dance in a
corner, and he lit up the room – quietly, confidently, humbly and
unquestionably – as he always seems to do.
Walker is meeting with Florida Senator Bill Nelson – one of 6 Committee members
who can determine if and when Congress will review DADT, to
lobby him for his vote. He recently attended, along with
hundreds of vets from across the country, Veteran’s Lobby
Day in D.C. to Repeal DADT. He is also waiting for May 26th,
much like thousands of vets & American citizens, to see if this
committee vote will take place in D.C. If it does not move
forward, Walker has a plan. He always has a plan.
Walker Walks to Washington
“Now is my time to speak up and put a human face to this unfair policy.
I cannot control how I was born, but I can control my actions.”
Walker is planning a cross-country walk, culminating in a series of
Capitol Hill meetings in D.C. to bring awareness to his cause and to
educate communities along the way of the need to repeal DADT.
This grueling journey will cover over 250+ miles on foot and take
nearly two weeks for him to complete, will bring him face-to-face
with thousands of Americans, and will generate much needed
media attention to fight to Repeal DADT. Most importantly, it will
give Walker the opportunity to change minds and stereotypes and
to make a difference.
“I never thought I would be prevented from doing something
honorable because of being true to myself. Being the man I am.
I will not deny the man I am – this I have learned in the journey, and