Letter: Curtis Kemp, Leesburg

Editor: On June 30, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced that transgender individuals would be welcome in all the military services and would be financially supported in their desire for medical transition procedures. I am concerned that we have lost focus on the purpose of our militaries—to fight and defend our nation and its citizens, and to be ready to do that on a moment’s notice.

Having served in the Navy for 34 years, I understand those priorities and how much time commanding officers are focused on how to train and build well-honed teams that are fully ready to go into harm’s way. As it is, besides the basic policy change, this announcement from SECDEF spends almost as much time addressing the need to retrain commanding officers and their staffs on adjusting to these new requirements. Are those the priorities we want our commanding officers focusing on in this world of turmoil?

How ironic that this announcement came out just prior to Independence Day—that historic time when our brave Founding Fathers said they would not put up with the tyranny of a government who made proclamations and demands on their subjects without considering their best interests. Those American patriots risked sacrificing their lives and fortunes for the “common good,” not for the desires of each individual.

Historically, the Military Services have been known for bringing in young, sometimes immature men and women and instilling them with the discipline to help them understand what it means to serve a much greater cause then “self;” to understand the need to give up personal desires for the good of the team; and in the overall process, often mature and find clearer direction in their lives. SECDEF’s new policy instead seems focused on using the military experience to assist confused individuals pursue their confusion. And who will pay for this self-choice desire for radical physical change that is extremely expensive? You – the American taxpayer. Perhaps not the best analogy, but it somewhat reminds me that although I am balding, I might feel like I would be a much more complete individual if I had a full head of hair again. Should I expect the federal government and the American taxpayer to pay for all the treatments necessary to “fulfill my needs?” Seriously? Why should we not expect individuals to undergo elective surgery on their own dime and their own personal time rather than being paid for by citizens of this country? Do we not have more important military needs in which to invest?

As we reflect on this recent Independence Day, my hope is that the citizens of this country will consider once again what it means to respect each individual because of their inherent worth as a human being, but also to better understand what it means to move our country forward, including supporting the demanding requirements of our military, by making  decisions that truly serve the common good.

Rear Admiral Curtis Kemp, USN (Ret.), Leesburg

5 thoughts on “Letter: Curtis Kemp, Leesburg

  • 2016-07-14 at 7:29 am

    ” I am balding, I might feel like I would be a much more complete individual if I had a full head of hair again.”

    Rear Admiral Curtis Kemp

    The problem with seeking medical treatment isn’t that people “feel” they want it. More often, people don’t want it, and they resist treatment, thinking that they can fight it all by themselves, without treatment. Ask the people of Loudoun suffering from chronic Lyme disease who didn’t seek treatment early. When people in authority who really know nothing – obviously – about the medical condition dismiss it as merely a “feel[ing],” they create barriers to seeking treatment. This is exactly why the SECDEF’s policy change was necessary. Members of the military receive military medical benefits, all of them. We, laypeople, don’t get to pick which benefits should or shouldn’t be available, even if we wear one or two stars on our lapels.

    • 2016-07-15 at 10:55 am

      So Jonathan Weintraub believes he knows what medical “benefits” should be included in our health plans. Did he mention that virtually no private employer health plan pays for gender reassignment surgery? But yet he claims the “experts” demand it be covered under the military’s benefits. Clearly, Weintraub will say anything, logical or not, to support his case.

      Maybe Jonathan can explain to us how gender works. We have:

      tomboys – little girls (really girls) who may like to play baseball and do activities normally associated with boys. Are these really victims trapped in a girl’s body who just won’t admit they need hormones and surgery?

      gays/lesbians – men and women who are attracted to the same sex. They represent less than 5% of the population. Are they just confused and need gender reassignment surgery? Certainly I don’t think you would make that argument.

      transgenders – men and women who believe they have the wrong biological bodies. They represent an infinitesimal part of the population. But if they change their minds after surgery, does that mean they were wrong? In other words, can you point to any medical test or procedure, any brain scan or blood test, or any evidence whatsoever about what gender these folks should be other than how they feel? If there are no physical markers whatsoever, how can you say it’s not based on a feeling? It may be true that one day there are tests, but for now, how can we possibly differentiate between people who may be in the wrong biological body and those who feel different? If the argument is they feel much happier and accepted after the reassignment, the same could be said of men who are given hair or women who have breast augmentation surgery. They feel more accepted and happier in their bodies after these “medical procedures” as well. Can you say for sure that hormones of their current sex would not eliminate much of their desire to change gender?

      Is it ok for a lesbian who excels in activities associated with males to not get gender reassignment surgery? Or are you suggesting they just haven’t accepted their inner “maleness” and are in denial? Same goes for gays who may like some female interests? Where do metrosexuals stand? Or bisexuals? Should they switch gender every 10 years or so to realize the benefits of both?

      I do not live in these folks’ bodies. I don’t know what they feel. But I do know there appears to be absolutely no test to determine what the correct answer is. Thus, it basically boils down to feelings. Kids are lured into all kinds of groups to be accepted. That is how gangs are successful. If any group approaches a child who has no friends and offers acceptance, they will often at least attempt to be sympathetic. Virtually everyone knows a homosexual who tried to be hetero. Or a girl who really liked a lesbian friend and tried to be lesbian. But they finally realized that wasn’t them. At the very least, we must be careful in making such permanent decisions hastily, especially among kids who are social outcasts and in need of acceptance. And if politicians want to “lead the way” in social politics, just don’t use the military as a guinea pig. Lord knows they have a hard enough job as it is.

  • 2016-07-09 at 7:21 am

    Very considered letter. Let me add some more to the discussion.

    This is not just about singling out one group. Any teenage camp counselor or college dorm RA can tell you the natural conflicts that arise when young men and women are couped up in tight quarters for large periods of time. Breakups happen and when students are forced to remain in close proximity, the tension becomes nearly unbearable. Constant flirting and efforts to get their target’s attention often become major priorities for individuals from both genders. There is nothing wrong with this as we certainly need to reproduce.

    But while getting distracted in college, at camp or on a job hurts productivity, it doesn’t endanger you. When military units don’t focus on their very real mission but their commanders are constantly having to settle disputes or refocus team members, it detracts from readiness. It isn’t a civil rights issue, it’s a safety issue.

    Many Senators were determined to gain “equal rights” for women to serve. One must admit that opening the talent pool to half the population can only provide more qualified individuals to serve. For LGBT individuals, its at most 5%. One must also admit that there are many jobs in the military which don’t encounter the heightened social conflicts I described above. They are essentially normal 8-5 jobs. There should be no limitations.

    But many roles are very different than civilian jobs. Soldiers and marines are deployed in close quarters 24/7 for long periods of time. Navy ships may be out to sea for months. I can tell you that being locked up on a 300-ft boat with only males (including your boss) can be challenging enough since it’s virtually impossible to “get away. Combining both genders into the mix naturally creates issues. The Navy doesn’t publish the data but significant numbers become pregnant at sea despite rules against such conduct. (see here and here too.)

    One might argue that if the military were composed originally of all women, it would be problematic to allow men to be added to the close units. I agree. And there have been great contributions by all sectors of society. Alan Turing made probably the greatest individual contribution to the Allies efforts in WWII but was subsequently harassed for being gay.

    But the question remains. Is the purpose of our military to provide the most efficient defense forces and maximize the safety of its members or is the purpose of our military to promote the civil rights agenda of politicians? Emotions can run high in romantic affairs. Do we really want to distract our young men and women from their difficult jobs?

  • 2016-07-09 at 12:40 am

    Curtis – With a Son who is in the JRROTC and destined to enter one branch of the military, as a family, like many other families we talk to, we are at a cross-roads as we don’t know if our Son will ultimately join the military under the realm of liberal rule, especially under the likes of Hillary if she is elected. He is very involved, without my involvement, in politics and surprisingly and openly discusses issues with his friends (and to a much lesser degree with his parents, as you know teenagers). He has discussed many aspects, but the military lowering standards for female applicants, who may need to save his life one day seem to really be the sticking point as you can’t have weak-links on a team due to political correctness. Underachievers have no place in certain parts of the military, but liberals want them side-by-side in every position making the same pay regardless of their qualifications or ability, which is laughable….. The liberals have already forced a huge percentage of the moderate and high ranking qualified and competent folks out of our military, and the next breed of qualified and competent are considering bowing out, which leaves this Country vulnerable to be protected by otherwise 2nd and 3rd Class Warriors…… The Upper Echelon is doomed for at least a generation and we desperately need infusion of billions and massive technology…… My thoughts for your service to our Country as there is still hope!!!

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