A Marine's Act of Courage: Opposing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

Marine Captain Nathan Cox displayed a special kind of bravery by writing an op-ed in support of gay Americans.

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It comes as no surprise to find men and women of great courage serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. After all, it is almost redundant to say "brave Marine."

But it took a special kind of guts to do what Marine Captain Nathan Cox did today, and write an op-ed piece in support of gay Americans.

Cox has been deployed twice to Iraq, and once to Afghanistan. He has commanded Marines in combat. And today he published a direct answer to Gen. James Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps, who declared this week that "mistakes" and "distractions" caused by having gays in the military could "cost Marine lives."

"I am not homosexual," Cox wrote in the Washington Post. But "in this instance, I must respectfully disagree with my commandant." [See photos of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.]

"I do not believe the intense desire we all feel as Marines to accomplish the mission and protect each other will be affected in the slightest by knowing the sexual orientation of the man or woman next to us," Cox wrote. Stateside, or in the relative safety of a major American base, there may be time for military personnel to gossip, or care, about each other's sexuality. Not so "when they're walking down a dusty road full of improvised explosive devises in Haditha or Sangin," says Cox. "Is it really likely that lance corporals who know each other better than brothers, and may have saved each other's lives in split-second reactions during deployments, are suddenly going to refuse to serve in the same unit or quit the Corps because they have to share a shower?"

Cox cited Pentagon surveys showing that 84 percent of combat arms Marines who had served with gays in the Corps believed that allowing homosexuals to serve their country in uniform would have no effect, or a positive effect. "It seems obvious that if allowing homosexuals to serve openly degraded performance, rather than improved it, a majority of Marines who had served with homosexuals would oppose repeal," Cox argues. [Read more about terrorism and the military.]

Cox is right, of course. And he is right to remind Gen. Amos, and the rest of us, of the gay Marines recuperating from combat wounds at Bethesda Naval Hospital, or resting in hallowed graves in Arlington.

"We all bleed red, we all love our country, we are all Marines," Cox says. "In the end, that's all that matters."

  • See photos of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
  • See a slide show of 6 vulnerable terrorist targets.
  • See editorial cartoons on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"