I have been following @Jethro_Aryeh on twitter for at least 3 or 4 months. I’m not sure why or how I connected with him but the first thing I noticed was that he had an unusual icon for an avatar and he was in the military.
His tweets were always a bit mysterious as he is still active duty military and was not able to come out or let himself be known. It was interesting to watch his posts as it became more apparent that DADT would be repealed. Shortly after Obama signed off a new avatar appeared and Captain Perez was officially out of the closet. He was now able to share his picture as well as his full name Alberto Aryeh Perez DeJesus.
So who is this guy? When I decided to write this blog post I knew I had to interview him to get the whole scoop and he was more then happy to oblige.
Alberto is currently employed as a captain in the army and is stationed in Waipahu Hawaii where he enjoys the weather and thinks the people are very nice. I joked with him that he must be tired of eating all of that SPAM (Hawaiians love SPAM). He pointed out that he was Jewish. Ok I wasn’t expecting that one. I just assumed that he was catholic. He went on to tell me that he can trace his ancestry back 5000 years and mentioned to me that the surname Perez can be found in the book of Genesis in the Bible. Lesson learned: Don’t make assumptions and don’t judge a book by its cover.
I asked him about his dating life and he told me that because of DADT he has not been able to date. He realizes he has had to make a huge sacrifice and would love to have someone to cuddle with at night but it’s always been out of the question due to military policies. At this point he would love to meet that special someone, however, his bandwidth is all used up due to his career, his studies, and the pending case. Even though I just talked to him briefly, my first impression is that I think he would make a great catch. All you single lads out there keep your eye on him.
A few more things that are important to know about Alberto is; that he has been independent since the age of 17; he ran away from home and completed high school on his own; and upon graduating he joined the Air Force because he knew he wanted to do something for his country and he had career aspirations that included secondary education. He remained in the Air Force for 2 years until his mom died. Not too long after leaving the Air Force he re-enlisted in the Army where he has served for 19 plus years. While in the Army he has had tours of duty in both Korea and Iraq. I asked him what it was like serving time in Iraq and he said he spent most of his time dodging bullets and IED’s.
I talked to him about coming out because I wanted to know how people in the military handled being in the closet. Alberto reminded me that DADT is technically a law and he wanted to do everything he could to uphold it (DADT is still in place until the repeal is fully enacted). One thing he wanted me to understand was not only could enlistees not discuss their sexual orientation but the armed services were not allowed to pursue anyone either. The title of the law really should have been Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue.
The obvious question is if the military cannot pursue why have so many military personnel been discharged? My personal opinion is that the military did pursue enlistees. I have no evidence to back that up, however, I have heard through various sources that it has occurred. Gay military personnel have legitimately been discharged as a result of verbal or written communication, through complaints, by snitches, and via confession. Here are some personal stories of military people who have been discharged as a result of DADT.
Until recently Alberto never told anyone in the Army that he was gay. Although he did come across others that he knew were gay, he did not say a word out of fear of being outed. Like anyone else who is gay and in the closet he had constant feeling of anxiety and caution when dealing with people because he had no idea who he could trust.
Now that DADT has been repealed and will be put into effect shortly, everything should be coming up roses for Alberto, right?. That’s a big NO. The opposite is true. After serving faithfully in the US Army for over 19 years he is being forced to retire because the Army claims that they cannot promote him and he must retire. Alberto is convinced that his pending discharge is because he is gay and he has evidence to back it up.
Alberto began to have questions about his status after being passed over for promotion on many occasions. He felt that he was an ideal candidate because he had always received positive reviews from his direct reports and he did not believe he had any negative information in his employee file.
To get a promotion in the military the candidates paperwork is submitted to a review board and that board decides whether there is merit or not. If the board determines the candidate is worthy of promotion they will forward the appropriate documents up the “food chain” and if the stars align the person will be granted a promotion.
Alberto soon became skeptical of why he was constantly being passed over for promotion and filed a formal complaint with his local inspector general per military policy. His complaint was denied via a very vague memo. He filed another complaint recently that has gone all the way to the Pentagon and that was also denied, stating that he is not competitive (what the hell does that mean?), his records are not complete, and thus he does not meet the requirements for promotion. His only alternative according to the Army is for him to retire.
Most of us would probably be glad to leave and take our pensions and take a permanent vacation. But this is not what Alberto wants to do at this time. He is happy serving his country and is studying to be a behavioral therapist. I find it very suspicious that at a time where military suicides are at an all time high and there is a severe need to have military personnel trained the field of mental health that they would take a stand that Alberto does not qualify for promotion.
The icing on the cake is that Alberto has a stellar record in the military, he is enrolled in a prestigious university and his current GPA is 3.8/4.0. Alberto is convinced that the military wants him discharged because of his sexual orientation and he told me that he has proof. His current status is that he has 3 classes to complete prior to beginning his internship. He is funding his education on his own and he plans to begin interning as soon as he possibly can. A forced retirement would throw a huge wrench in his plans so he is fighting with everything he can to retain his position.
What is the bottom line?. Alberto has served his country and sacrificed his life for the armed services in a way that no straight man or woman ever had to. Because of his sexual orientation he has not been able date, marry, or have healthy discussions about his sexuality. Further, Alberto educated me to the fact that under the repeal, even though the military cannot discharge personnel legally based on sexual orientation, gays and lesbians WILL NOT have the same rights as non-gays. As a matter of fact, there is a reference to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the repeal, which prohibits gays who are able to marry from having the same benefits as those who don’t. The repeal of DADT DOES NOT MEAN that gays and lesbians will receive equal treatment as those who are not gay or lesbian.
Going forward, Alberto has hired a lawyer to represent him and has received the backing of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) and Senator Richard Blumenthal from his home state of Connecticut. He has filed a a legal complaint against the army claiming an Official False Statement. This appears to be the first case of it’s kind and will likely be ground breaking and precedent setting. Ideally, he would like to see his case resolved before he is forced into retirement, However, he has the mindset that this is a case that, win or lose, he will be pleased because it will move the discussion of equality forward.
Alberto is a great guy and deserves all of our support. If you help Alberto you are supporting equality. So what can you do? Follow this link and sign his petition. If you really want to take it to the next level contact Senator Blumenthal and let him know that you are happy that he is supporting Captain Perez and encourage him to act quickly to get resolution of the case. This is a great opportunity to help the cause and you can do so very easily.
To engage directly with Alberto follow him on twitter @Jethro_Aryeh