Master Sgt. Anthony Henry, a top Marine recruiting trainer for the southwestern United States, pulled up to Tulsa’s biggest gay community center on Tuesday morning and left his Chevy where he could make a fast getaway. “I have an exit strategy,” he said…
But as it happened, one of the strangest days in the history of the United States Marine Corps unfolded without the protests and insults that Sergeant Henry had feared. Sergeant Henry, who had been invited to set up a recruiting booth on the first day of the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” at the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center in downtown Tulsa, instead spent it in quiet conversation with a trickle of gay women who came in to ask about joining the Marines.
“It’s your business and you don’t have to share it,” Sergeant Henry told Ariel Pratt, 20, who asked whether she would face discrimination in the military as a lesbian serving openly. “But you’re also free to be at the mall with your girlfriend…”
The Marines were the service most opposed to ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, but they were the only one of five invited branches of the military to turn up with their recruiting table and chin-up bar at the center Tuesday morning. Although Marines pride themselves on being the most testosterone-fueled of the services, they also ferociously promote their view of themselves as the best. With the law now changed, the Marines appear determined to prove that they will be better than the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard in recruiting gay, lesbian and bisexual service members…
By 5 p.m. the Marines had packed up their booth and chin-up bar and headed out, with plans to come back later to attend a panel discussion. It was all uncharted territory. As Sergeant Henry had said the day before of the new world the Marines now inhabit, “At first it’s going to be kind of shock and awe.”
But like a good Marine, he was with the program: “My take is, if they can make it through our boot camp, which is the toughest boot camp in the world, then they ought to have the opportunity to wear the uniform.”
That the Marine Corps was last in line to support the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was as much a function of who happened to be Commandant at the time. History recognizes the Marine Corps as the most progressive of U.S. military services at removing and opposing discrimination.
Which is why I don’t find it surprising that  other branches of our military turned down the opportunity and  the Marines didn’t. RTFA for details, pride in service.