Petty Officer 2nd Class Jason Knight says the U.S. Navy knew he was gay, discharged him after he admitted his sexuality, and then re-called him last year to serve in the Middle East.
The Navy disputes that Knight was ever officially known by the Pentagon to be openly gay, so there was nothing odd about his being re-called last summer. But Knight, 23, calls this "a joke."
He filled out all the proper paperwork, he says. He suspects the Navy knew of his sexuality but "had a spot to fill, and for whatever reason, I didn't have the re-enlistment code that would prevent me from filling to spot."
A Comeback for 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'?
The particular circumstances surrounding Knight's discharge complicate any definitive narrative that the Pentagon, hungry for manpower, is overlooking its ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military.
Navy spokesman Cmdr. Jeff Davis, says, "There is nothing in his [Knight's] service record to indicated he was discharged for violation of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' It was a normal routine discharge that occurred when his enlistment was up."
Knight says that he informed the military of his sexual orientation after having his July 2004 marriage to a woman annulled, and he was filling out Pentagon paperwork to have that annulment recorded.
He says that he filled out the proper paperwork under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" protocols.
A Navy legalman was filling out the forms for the Navy, he recalls. But Knight says, ultimately, his superior officers decided that since he was nearing his four-year anniversary in April 2005 and was eligible for a normal discharge, they would opt for that exit.
"They didn't want to drag it out," Knight says. So he did not receive what is referred to as a "homosexual separation," but rather a regular DD214 -- "a regular discharge."
Soldier Claims Navy Re-Called Signing Bonus
The Navy, however, hadn't quite washed its hands of the matter.
In April 2005, Knight says he received a letter from the Navy saying that it wanted Knight to return to them the $13,000 signing bonus he'd been paid after enlisting in April 2001.
Then, even after the Navy re-calleded him from the individual active reserve, Knight -- who received a promotion during his service in a customs battalion in Kuwait -- says the military withheld $350 from his monthly pay to repay that bonus.
Because of the paperwork he filled out and the wages that were withheld, Knight does not believe that the Navy didn't know he was gay.
Davis says Knight's "official personnel record does not reflect" that it was known that he was openly gay.
The Pentagon also challenges the notion that it re-calleded Knight back to duty. Davis says Knight volunteered, and the Navy accepted him.
Knight says that he received an e-mail from the Navy re-calling him but "I found out when I got to Kuwait it was volunteer. That happened to a lot of us."
Knight is currently in San Diego on his 30-days of leave before he is officially discharged again on May 28.
"I understand there are some people that push the limits on it with being gay," he says. "But so many people are just doing their job, and just want to have the right to serve their country."
He calls "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" "an immoral policy" and says his being openly gay had "no effect on unit cohesion."
"Everybody I worked with was totally comfortable with me," Knight insists.
That would be disputed, no doubt, by supporters of the current policy, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who last month wrote that "polarization of personnel and breakdown of unit effectiveness is too high a price to pay for well-intentioned but misguided efforts to elevate the interests of a minority of homosexual servicemembers above those of their units."