I learned this the hard way while in boot camp many years ago, and quickly forgot it, as I became a “nasty” civilian again. The military teaches you a new language, and unless you’re fluent in it, you may not understand your newly minted service member.
Along with these new words and form of speaking that many people will never understand outside of the workplace or immediate friends, you learn that you must take responsibility for yourself. Don’t hesitate to ask for something, because if you do, then you will never know if it would have been granted it or not.
While Jamie was at Officer Training School (OTS), we were trying to figure out what we where going to do with the house and all of our stuff. And if you know us, we have a lot of stuff, cool stuff. We started stressing about living situations and what was going to happen with us because of DOMA. Currently, DOMA prevents same-sex married couples from having access to many federal benefits. This law binds the military. Regardless of the repeal of DADT and the can of worms it opened for LGB families, DOMA still exists, and it was becoming more and more real for both Jamie and me. The stress was hard on both of us, me living in Houston taking care of everything from there, and Jamie at OTS four states away feeling the stress of not being able to help or be here to fix it…it began to really cut us down.
I read an article about DOMA and military installations and how base commanders have the authority to allow same-sex couples to live off base. It sent a green light bulb to my brain and off came a little bit of stress. I talked to Jamie and suggested that I contact the base commander and see what we could do about our unique situation. We both agreed that it never hurts to ask, the worst that can happen is that they say no. So I did some searching, and found the contact information we needed to start the process. Within a day, I was speaking to the bottom of the command, because in the military everything starts at the lowest ring in the chain. Quickly I was writing emails, explaining the situation, and waiting. (Oh the hurry up and wait game that I miss oh so much). We sat and waited. The command would email questions asking for more information before it could proceed to the next member of the command. Weeks passed, and we were told to not hold our breath, that they may not be able to help us, and if that was the case we would have to pay for our apartment ourselves.
For many who do not know, the military pays upwards to 2500 dollars a month in housing allowance to straight married couples, depending on where you are stationed and what rent or mortgages are going for in that area. This is not afforded to LGB couples who are legally married, and they must come up with rent on their own. We braced ourselves for the worst by planning for me to work and go to school, and if need be pick up an extra job to cover the rest of the bills. We would learn to micro-budget even more.
Jamie graduated OTS, and we were told we would have to wait on word from the Colonel. I went back to Houston stressed, and Jamie checked in at the very first duty station of this new adventure.
Weeks passed with no emails and no phone calls. We were prepared to do whatever it took to be together, even if I had to work for two companies and go to school. We already had our apartment and were just waiting. The military really likes to do that to people. Get everything done and then just wait. The waiting started to stress us both out again. Being stressed as a couple five states apart is really tough; thankfully a lot of talking and texting got us through it.
Then one day while I was at work, Jamie called me and said she had to tell me something. She was a little shaky in the voice and seemed to be upset. I quickly asked what was wrong and the response I was given knocked me off my feet. She said, “They called, we where approved!”
We where approved, approved to live off of base, collect BAH at the “single rate” (basic allowance for housing), and everything was being signed in the morning! I was shocked and relieved. All of our stress of what we were going to do was gone. Never did I think we were going to be approved, I just simply thought we would ask and then be told, “We are sorry, but DOMA prevents us from helping our LGB military members. Try and call your Congressman.”
We learned that Monday that it never hurts to ask. While DOMA makes things ten times harder, if you’re persistent, educated, and ask the right questions, the worst they can say is no.
We know our positive response is unfortunately not true for all of our LGB service members, and that we are very fortunate to be in a command that values their officers and their families. We are forever grateful to the command, and our hope is that DOMA will be gone, so other LGB service members will not have to go through the ringer to get what others take for granted.