A former soldier working to overturn the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding gays in the armed forces testified today during a federal trial to determine the policy’s constitutionality that he served with homosexuals who were above average servicemen.
Stephen Vossler of Nebraska was called by attorneys for the Log Cabin Republicans, who are suing to enjoin the government from continuing the policy on grounds that it’s discriminatory and a violation of the right to due process.
The lawsuit, naming the Department of Defense as a defendant, was filed in October 2004. The non-jury trial got under way Tuesday in Riverside before U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips.
Vossler testified that, while he served as a Korean linguist in the U.S. Army between 2001 and 2009, he befriended two gay soldiers in his barracks. Vossler says he’s straight.
He said he met Derrick Thomas nine months before the enlisted man was drummed out of the military for being openly gay.
“He was an above average soldier,” Vossler recalled, characterizing Thomas as physically fit and “overqualified” for the tasks he was performing.
The witness said he was uncomfortable at first with Thomas’ homosexuality, but it never created a conflict with their living arrangements.
“It was a pretty great living situation,” Vossler testified. “He was very courteous.”
Vossler said his other gay friend, Jarrod Chlapowski, also was a Korean linguist with whom he served.
At first, Vossler said he refused to believe Chlapowski was a homosexual.
“He was very mellow and professional,” he said. “We had the same outlook on the military and tried to be at the top of our class … I didn’t think it would be possible to develop a close friendship with a gay man.”
On cross-examination, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Gardner established that Vossler has worked directly or indirectly for two gay advocacy groups — Servicemembers United and the Human Rights Campaign — since the witness ended his military service.
Chlapowski is the cofounder of Servicemembers United and the director of military affairs for the Human Rights Campaign.