Troops Discharged Under 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Eye Return to Ranks

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"We expect that all who are otherwise qualified will be allowed to rejoin and at least pick up their careers where they left off," said Aaron Tax, legal director for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, who said many gay veterans were interested in continuing to work toward 20 years of service to earn valuable military retirement benefits.

Jason Knight, discharged after five years as a Navy Hebrew linguist, said he plans to re-enlist as soon as he can because there is such high demand for interpreters and intelligence analysts.

"Linguists have the highest security clearance and are essential in deciphering foreign intelligence," he said. "And anecdotally at least, they are the biggest field hit by 'don't ask, don't tell' next to pilots and medics... I'm going back to reach my 20 years of service and retire."

An estimated 800 mission-critical troops, including at least 59 Arabic and nine Farsi linguists, have been fired for being openly gay between 2003 and 2008, according to estimates provided by the Pentagon to SLDN.

Almy, who has been working as a private defense contractor, said the most compelling reason for his re-enlistment, however, is the military's need for role models.

"The military is going to need positive examples, positive role models of gays and lesbians serving openly," he said. "One of the reasons there has been so much obstruction and opposition to repeal… is fear of the unknown, because gays and lesbians can't serve openly and there are no examples out there."

"I encourage all those discharged who can to go back in. It's part of service, and that's what I'm going to do."

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