The Pentagon is forcing some soldiers to stay in Iraq longer than expected and struggling to meet its recruiting goals. At the same time, it's kicking good soldiers out, and that makes me want to say, "Give Me a Break."
Thousands of soldiers serving in Iraq now have finished the tours they signed up for, but are being kept in Iraq anyway. Mark Bryant is one of those soldiers. In 2000, he signed up for what he thought would be a four-year hitch in the army. Last September, he completed those four years and was looking forward to spending more time with his wife and son. But what he and thousands of others didn't know was that the fine print in their contract said that they could be kept on longer in a period of war or national emergency.
Now his wife, Michelle, is upset that her son can only see his father's image on a TV screen. "I don't think it's fair, and because of that fine line print, he gets sent over there, when there are people wanting to go over there," she said.
The "people" she's referring to are soldiers who were kicked out of the military because they're gay. Although the phrase "Don't ask, don't tell" implies that if you don't announce you're gay you won't be discharged, that's not always how it works.
Jack Glover and David Hall, for example, did not tell. They were confronted by their commanding officer after another soldier told the commander that Glover and Hall were in a relationship. Both refused to say whether they were gay.
"Three months later, we were called in by our commander to say you know we've been told that we have to dis-enroll you," Hall said.
Justin Peacock was thrown out of the Coast Guard after another soldier reported that he had been holding hands with another man.
"The military said that I was gratifying, gratifying myself and it was a sexual desire and they had to discharge for it because it was a homosexual act," Justin said.
Glover, Hall and Peacock are among the 10,000 soldiers who have been kicked out of the military for being gay since "Don't Ask, don't Tell" was implemented in 1993.
This year, a GAO report found the military has discharged hundreds of gay soldiers even though they were in "critical occupations" -- people like Arabic translators and intelligence analysts. Recruiting and retraining soldiers to fill the positions left open by discharged gay soldiers has cost the Department of Defense almost $200 million.
"I was military intelligence. I had a skill they needed. And they just gave it up because I'm gay," said Tommy Cook.
"They're kicking gay Americans out who want to serve their country honorably when people are fighting and screaming to get out of the Army. It makes me so mad," said Glover.
The group we interviewed is part of a lawsuit filed by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. It is suing to overturn the military's policy on gays. They want to be reinstated into the military.
The Defense Department wouldn't agree to an interview about this, but sent us a statement that said, "Individuals discharged under the provisions of that law represent a very small percent of military discharges."
But small percentages make a difference.