American Veteran: In the era of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” military service meant a double life

From the American project Homefront:

To commemorate Veterans Day, the American Homefront Project partnered with the PBS documentary series American Veteran and the accompanying podcast American Veteran: Unforgettable Stories to highlight the men and women who served in the US military.

Brandon Anderson’s grandparents signed paperwork allowing him to join the army at the age of 17. He was looking for stability and a sense of community after a difficult childhood filled with abandonment, homelessness and legal troubles. He liked the structure and predictability of army life.

“That was what I cared about the most,” Anderson said. “Being part of a family, being close to people, sharing experiences even if it wasn’t the best conditions, and having a place to call home.”

But in the mid-2000s, during the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell era, when being openly gay could result in a dishonorable dismissal, he had to hide his relationship with the man he had loved for more than a decade.

When he got the call that his partner had been shot by the police, he could no longer hide the relationship. Anderson’s attitude toward the military changed dramatically when the institution he had come to rely on rejected him at a point in his life when he most needed support.

Brandon Anderson was recorded by Insignia Films for GBH Boston. To learn more about American Veteran, visit pbs.org/americanveteran.

This excerpt was produced by the American Homefront Project, a collaborative public media project that highlights American military life and veterans. Funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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