• An Open Letter to

    Secretary of Defense James Mattis

    Regarding Transgender Military Service

  • Secretary Mattis,

     

    When Donald Trump announced you as his nominee to lead the Department of Defense, many in our community of veterans believed you to be an outstanding selection. Your care for troops and dedication to the mission are well known, and many believed you would be a steady hand and reasonable voice for an uncertain time and an inexperienced Commander-in-Chief.

     

    As we learned in service and as you no doubt taught your subordinates, leaders are defined by their actions when facing adversity, not by what they do when leadership is unchallenging. This week, the President has presented you with such an opportunity by declaring, on the anniversary of Harry Truman’s order to desegregate the armed forces, that our transgender comrades are no longer welcome to serve their country in uniform. As you and we are well aware, discrimination against any person regarding anything other than their combat effectiveness is incompatible with military service.

     

    As you know, the history of transgender people serving in the American force is complicated. While transgender Americans serve openly today and have served discreetly in our force since 1776, it was not until last year that the Department of Defense allowed our transgender brothers and sisters to serve openly. Just this month, the Pentagon announced a delay in allowing openly trans recruits to enlist. In your approval of that delay you noted that there is one standard you use to evaluate policy decisions: “the readiness and lethality of our armed forces.”

     

    As American military veterans, we write to you today to emphatically state that Donald Trump’s “trans ban” unquestionably fails your standard. This policy will harm readiness and unit cohesion by removing troops from service who are integral, critical, and necessary members of their teams. It will prevent the Department of Defense from recruiting patriotic and qualified Americans with vital skills simply because of an identity that has no impact on their combat effectiveness. And perhaps most importantly, this reckless and bigoted trans ban forces servicemembers to choose between living a lie to serve the country that they and we love, or maintaining the personal integrity that we all know to be a core value of military service.

     

    We believe you to be an honorable leader with the best interests of our force at heart. That honor cannot abide silence regarding a policy that is shortsighted, discriminates against brave servicemembers already in uniform and Americans who aspire to serve, and harms the readiness and lethality of our force. As American veterans, some of whom have served under your command, we implore you to publicly reject the President’s harmful statements and advise him to reverse this discriminatory decision. We know this is difficult for a leader in your position. But as you know well, great leaders cannot be timid in the face of adversity.

     

  • Bridget D. Altenburg

    United States Army Veteran

    Stabilization Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina

     

     

    John Anderson

    United States Marine Corps Veteran

     

    Eric Baker

    United States Army Veteran

     

    Bill Barton

    United States Air Force Veteran

     

    Sarah Behan

    United States Army Veteran

    Operation Iraqi Freedom

     

    Joseph A. Bello

    United States Navy Veteran

     

    Jason Bensley

    United States Army Veteran

    Operation Iraqi Freedom

     

    Stephen Benson

    United States Navy Veteran

    Vietnam War

     

    Keith Boyea

    United States Air Force Veteran

    Operation Iraqi Freedom

    Operation Enduring Freedom

     

    Tony Camerino

    United States Air Force Veteran

    Operation Iraqi Freedom

     

    Robert Caruso

    United States Navy Veteran

     

    David Chasteen

    United States Army Veteran

    Operation Iraqi Freedom

    Operation Enduring Freedom

     

    Dario DiBattista

    United States Marine Corps Veteran

    Operation Iraqi Freedom

     

    Jason Davis

    United States Army Veteran

    Operation Iraqi Freedom

     

    Stephanie Driessel

    United States Army Veteran

    Operation Iraqi Freedom

     

    LeighAnn Dunn

    United States Army Veteran

    Operation Iraqi Freedom

     

    David Ramiro Duran

    United States Army Veteran

     

    Robin Eckstein

    United States Army Veteran

    Operation Iraqi Freedom

     

    Brian Esquibel

    United States Navy Veteran

    Operation Restore Hope

    Operation Enduring Freedom

    Operation Iraqi Freedom

     

    Sonia Fernandez

    United States Marine Corps Veteran

     

    Brian Ferreira

    United States Army Veteran

    Stabilization Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina

     

    Chance Forte

    United States Army Veteran

    Operation Enduring Freedom

     

    Phoebe Gavin

    United States Army Veteran

    Operation Iraqi Freedom

     

    Edgar G. Gibbs

    United States Army Veteran

     

    Lynne N. Gore

    United States Air Force Veteran

     

    Khristina Hall

    United States Navy Veteran

    Operation Iraqi Freedom

     

    Rick Hegdahl

    United States Navy Veteran

    Operation Iraqi Freedom

     

    Georgia Rep. Scott Holcomb

    Stabilization Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina

    Operation Enduring Freedom

    Operation Iraqi Freedom

     

    Chris Holman

    United States Army Veteran

     

    Jennifer Hunt

    United States Army Veteran

    Operation Enduring Freedom

    Operation Iraqi Freedom

     

    Keith Jeffreys

    United States Army Veteran

     

    Tara Jones

    United States Navy Veteran

    Gulf War Era

     

    Nathan D. Joy

    United States Marine Corps Veteran

     

    Michelle Kendall

    United States Army Veteran

    Operation Joint Endeavor

     

    Jason Macon

    United States Marine Corps Veteran

    Operation Iraqi Freedom

     

    Cyril Malika

    United States Army Veteran

    Operation Enduring Freedom

     

    Lamar Mapp

    United States Army Veteran

    Operation Enduring Freedom

     

    Alexander McCoy

    United States Marine Corps Veteran

     

    Brian McGough

    United States Army Veteran

    Operation Enduring Freedom

    Operation Iraqi Freedom

     

    Rafael Noboa Y Rivera

    United States Army Veteran

    Operation Iraqi Freedom

     

    Perry O'Brien

    United States Army Veteran

    Operation Enduring Freedom

     

    Matt Osborne

    United States Army Veteran

     

    Kade Patterson

    United States Army Veteran

     

    Jonas Rides At The Door

    United States Marine Corps Veteran

    Operation Iraqi Freedom

     

    Jackie Rodgers

    United States Army Veteran

    Operation Iraqi Freedom

     

    Katherine Scheirman, M.D.

    United States Air Force Veteran

     

    Terron Sims II

    United States Army Veteran

    Operation Iraqi Freedom

     

    Richard Allen Smith

    United States Army Veteran

    Operation Enduring Freedom

     

    Shannon Smyth

    United States Air Force Veteran

    Operation Iraqi Freedom

     

    Joseph Richard Stutler Jr.

    United States Army Veteran

    Operation Desert Storm

     

    Ryan Sullivan

    United States Army Veteran

    Operation Iraqi Freedom

    Operation Enduring Freedom

     

    Mike Stark

    United States Marine Corps Veteran

     

    Armondo Telles

    United States Marine Corps Veteran

     

    Stephanie Torgerson

    United States Air Force Veteran

    Operation Iraqi Freedom

    Operation Enduring Freedom

     

    Charles Tyler

    United States Army Veteran

    Operation Desert Shield

    Operation Desert Storm

    Operation Iraqi Freedom

     

    Colm Walker

    United States Army Veteran

    Operation Enduring Freedom

     

    Mark White

    United States Air Force Veteran

     

    Eli Williamson

    United States Army Veteran

    Operation Iraqi Freedom

     

    Bobby Wise

    United States Army Veteran

    Operation Iraqi Freedom

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  • About

    This letter is an independent effort of the signers named and not a project of any organization, campaign or political party. Named signers represent a coalition diverse in service branch, combat service, military rank, age, sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability status. Individual signers represent themselves only and do not represent their employers, branches of military service, the Department of Defense, or the United States Government.