Jack Burton wrote:I was under the impression that quite a few on this board served in their armed forces, so it would be illuminating they might share their own knowledge/experience as former soldiers (and by that, I don't mean outing themselves, etc. but what they saw and heard from actual soldiers in the field)
Frankly, I'd rather have real soldiers tell me, not consultants, politicians, arm-chair generals.
I was in the Marine Corps (1971-75) and the Navy (1981-85). I was never in combat.
I don't recall it being a real issue at any time in any unit I was in, or in the Marine Corps in general. In the Marines, someone once told me a rumor that someone in our unit was gay, but it was just a rumor.
As to cohesiveness: Unlike TC, I've never been in combat, so maybe I'm not as qualified as he is to speak of cohesiveness, since it's arguably not as important outside a combat zone. Also, my understanding is that TC was a good soldier (no sarcasm) whereas I was not a very good Marine, was mildly rebellious, and never advanced beyond corporal. My MOS in the Marines was 0331, which is infantry, but I also spent a couple of years in a guard unit. My impression of the Marines at that time, both in two infantry units and in the guard unit, was that cohesion was not very relevant. I'm not making light of the idea of cohesiveness, and I expect that the Marine Corps has changed in the 33 years since I got out, but except in boot camp, unit cohesiveness just didn't seem to be a big issue in our lives. I should add that my first infantry unit had a lot of Vietnam veterans in it, and they didn't seem to care much for cohesiveness either. They did seem to cohere to some extent by virtue of having combat experience in common, but that was mostly at the personal level.
As to morale, each of us seemed to have his own flavor of that, according to personal tastes.
My experience in the Navy was similar in some regards. Again, I was not a very good sailor; once in a while I got into minor trouble, and I never even attained petty officer (NCO) rank. I spent two years as a deck seaman on a guided missile destroyer, and the issue of this thread was not a real issue there, and I don't recall it being a real issue in the Navy in general.
As to how the Marines and sailors that I was with would have responded to openly gay persons in the unit: I don't know. I suspect that some would have been hostile, but that most would have accepted it and that things would eventually have wound up pretty much the same as before. But again, I don't really know.