The Eighth Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard
20 May 1998 – 10 October 2002
“People, Passion & Performance”
December 5, 2003
Dear Fellow Veterans:
I am writing you as a veteran and retired military member of over 30 years of active service who cares deeply about our country and our military. For my last four years of active duty, I had the pleasure of serving as my Service’s senior ranking enlisted advisor, the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, advising the Commandant and top military and civilian leaders, including our President, on quality of life, personnel matters and work environment issues affecting more than 40,000 active duty, reserve and civilian members of the U. S. Coast Guard. This position required me to be ‘upfront’ and personal with those who I served with on many issues and concerns.
As a veteran, I know that many Americans have made great sacrifices to protect our democracy and our values of fair play. This is why I want to introduce you to the Military Education Initiative (MEI). MEI is a new public education campaign beginning an honest and candid conversation with veterans about the issue of gays in the military.
I know this is a volatile political issue. Like many of you, I have served on foreign soil, risking my life in defense of our nation’s freedom. I do not believe that we veterans should support a policy that denies to many of our fellow citizens the very liberties we placed our lives on the line to defend. To appropriately quote the late Senator Barry Goldwater, “You don’t need to be ‘straight’ to fight and die for your country; you just need to shoot straight!”
We have had ten years of the “Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell” policy, and I believe we veterans now have a special duty to lead in a thoughtful effort to reexamine the way our nation views military service by Gay and Lesbian Americans.
I encourage you and your fellow veterans to take a careful look at the information provided by the Military Education Initiative. Thank you.
With respect for your service to our nation,
VINCENT W. PATTON, III, Ed.D.
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, Retired
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