The Library of Congress Veterans History Project Home 
Experiencing War: Stories from the Veterans History Project
Home » Text Transcript

Interview with Brenda A. Vosbein [7/2/2005]

Brenda A. Vosbein:

[Conversation already in progress when tape starts] ...In 1999, which is right after we dropped the case. At that [AVER] convention, Jim Donovan said, "Well, why don't you tell us about the case instead of me giving my report, which is boring. That was the only time I'd ever talked about it. Last year, I just mentioned to someone at convention, to Sharon from SLDN, that I was "Jane Able," and she said, "Well everyone was wondering who was 'Jane Able'." After the trial, we just kind of went away, and we disappeared, and no one ever seemed to be interested in finding out who "Jane Able" was or doing anything with it. I thought the interest just wasn't there.

Steve Gatwick:

Well we're glad that we're able to document your story.

Robin Rumack:

[explaining camera directions] So just to mention if you could just talk to Steve. I'm probably not going to say anything, so just look at Steve. He can't really respond vocally if you say something funny or interesting or intense. It doesn't mean that it's not funny or intense. It's just that he can't laugh or anything.

Steve Gatwick:

Most of the time. I won't be a robot. If you're saying something really compelling or interesting and you hear me go "hum," then the audience wonders, "What was that?"

Robin Rumack:

Because he's not in the picture, and it's your story. It's not about us.

Steve Gatwick:

Anyway, I think that the simplest way is to start from the very beginning. If you could say your name, your rank, and then tell me a little bit about where you're from.

Brenda A. Vosbein:

My name is Brenda Vosbein. I retired from the United States Army in 98, '99. I better get it right, after 29 years of service. I was bom and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. I joined the Army from there in 1970. I was active duty from 1970 to 75, and I joined the reserves in '75 after I moved to California, and served the next twenty-four years in various reserve units in California.

Steve Gatwick:

So you're from the South? Old southern family?

Brenda A. Vosbein:

My mother's family had been there for two or three generations. My father's family had immigrated from Germany in the late 1890s some time.

Steve Gatwick:

Did you have any family history with the military? Any relatives?

Brenda A. Vosbein:

No, not really. I think I had one uncle who served in the Coast Guard. My father didn't serve during the war. I don't think any of his brothers did. They were caught in that age where they were too old to get drafted, and he was working in a shipyard, doing defense-type work. I really don't have any close relatives, except one cousin who graduated from ROTC and decided to make the Army a career.

Steve Gatwick:

Great. So what were your personal reasons for enlisting. Were you an officer?

Brenda A. Vosbein:

I started off enUsted. Going back to childhood, I don't know where exactly it came from. But I had organized the kids on the street. I had used a catalogue and ordered stripes. I put sergeant stripes on me. I made all of the boys--it was all boys except for one other girl I think. I made all of the boys privates and corporals, and I drilled them and did manual at arms. I read Marines at War--I mean all of these types of comic books. I just lived by those. As I got older I began to realize--this was like in the fifties when I was growing up--that what I was reading about and really wanted to do was nothing I would ever be able to do in the Marine Corps. At the time I enlisted the emphasis still was more on trying to make women look pretty in uniform than it was in training them to really be soldiers. I knew that it was more so with the Marines, because of their image. So I figured, "I have to find something that I can enlist to do that I'm really interested in doing, because I'll never be a combat soldier or a combat marine." But in high school, I found an interest in health care. So I enlisted to be a medical corpsman. So I went to basic training and then AIT Fort Sam Houston, where I became a medic, went to Fort Knox and from there I applied to OCS. I was accepted to Officer Candidate School. So I went to Fort McClellan for OCS in '71, was commissioned in December of '71. Since then I have been commissioned and went up the ranks as a commissioned officer. But I did start off as an enlisted person.

Steve Gatwick:

So you started serving during the Vietnam War?

Brenda A. Vosbein:

Yes.

Steve Gatwick:

Were you ever sent over to Vietnam.

Brenda A. Vosbein:

No, again, timing was such that female medics were not being sent to Vietnam. Mostly it was male medics. Most of the women that were going to Vietnam were in personnel and supplies. Timing wise, you had to have at least a year, J think, of stateside service before they'd even consider a woman for Vietnam. By that time, I'd gotten the appUcation started for Officer Candidate School. So again, timing wag just such that it wouldn't have worked out. Even if I had been really pushing for it, it [wouldn't have worked out.

Steve Gatwick:

Now any time, during your first time in the military before or after Officer Candidate School, do you remember any discussion of the military's pohcy toward homosexuality?

Brenda A. Vosbein:

The only place I saw that was that I do remember when I was going through the enlistment papers, there was something about: "Have you ever had sex with someone of the same sex?" I was basically asexual when I went into the military. I had never had sex with anyone. I didn't really realize that there was such a thing as sexual feelings. Some kids, I guess, get in touch with these things a lot earlier. I was into sports. I was into activities. I did a lot of things, but being interested in dating? At that point I wasn't interested in either sex other than someone to play ball with or do sports with or things like that. So in all good conscience, I could say "no" because it was true. There was never a time again when I was asked that question.

Steve Gatwick:

Ok. So what were some of your expectations? It sounds like when you signed up for OCS--was this something you wanted to do as a career or just for a certain amount of time? What were your expectations?

Brenda A. Vosbein:

Yes, I liked the Army. I fit in very well with the discipline of the military, and I thought that a career as an officer would be something that I'd really like to do. As time went along, my mind changed for two reasons. One is that I was in during a time of transition when women were being assigned outside of traditional WAC companies or WAC units. But they didn't know what to do with us when they got us some place else. I think it was 1973, I was assigned to Fort Huachuca, which was the first time I left a WAC unit. I'd always been either an enlisted woman serving in one or a training officer or Company Commander in a WAC company. I got into a regular unit, and I find myself getting bored. I spent most of my time at my desk trying to figure out, "What job can I create for myself today?" No one really kept me involved in anything. So that first got me thinking. Another thing that had come along was that while I was stationed at Fort McClellan, I had formed a very strong platonic relationship. Again, I didn't know what I was or what she was or anything at the time. But we had formed a very strong platonic relationship that was more than just friends. I knew it, but I wasn't sure what it was. I knew there was something there. She had decided that she wanted to leave the military. Her reason was that at the time the role of women was changing and women were beginning to fire weapons and be more combat proficient. She had decided that she wanted to be a conscientious objector. She would never be able to--I said, "All you have to do is shoot at a target." She said, "A target is shaped like a human being." I cannot fire a weapon period. I will not fire a weapon. She had decided that she was going to leave the service, and she was going to come to California and go to school. So the fact that I was bored stiff, and she was moving out to California, I thought, "Well, it sounds like a good deal." So it was a combination of both of those things. We moved out to California and lived together for a while. I think she got in touch with the fact that we were kind of playing house, but there was nothing else there. She moved on and got on with her life. Last thing I heard, she's a PhD psychologist at a VA hospital. But I still was. I knew there was a strong love relationship there, a very strong emotional attachment, but I still had never had a relationship with anybody. A combination of those things worked me out of the military--I mean, out of active duty into the reserves. But I definitely wanted to stay with the reserves, because I really loved the military.

Steve Gatwick:

So how long were you with the reserves?

Brenda A. Vosbein:

Another 24 years.

Steve Gatwick:

Twenty-four years! Tell me some of your most memorable experiences from your whole military career: good and bad. Anything really stand out?

Brenda A. Vosbein:

There were a few highlights. When I graduated from OCS, I was second in the class academically, but the staff faculty chose me to lead the company in the graduation parade. So that was one of the things I remember, serving as the company commander in the graduation parade that was something that was very, very memorable. Throughout the rest of my reserve career, I had a few commands that I really enjoyed. One was a personnel service company and a personnel service battalion. I enjoyed the command time there. I think I have a hard time sometimes understanding why command is so important. When I would walk into a room and if someone would say give this to someone else. "Well, why do you need that?" "Well, the Colonel said." It was not that you had that much real power, but commanders to their troops are like gods. If the captain, the major, the colonel, whatever the rank of the commander is, all they have to do is say to someone else that they want this because the commander wants it. That was something that I really enjoyed, that feeling of being responsible and being respected. You go onto a staff, like when I left battalion command. I went on to a staff at a general command. We had a two-star general, a one-star general, six or eight ftiU colonels. Lieutenant colonels are a dime a dozen. You get up to a big command like that was nothing. Being a lieutenant colonel in a battalion where you were the commander had a lot of status, a lot of prestige, and that was something that I really enjoyed.

Steve Gatwick:

I have two questions. Did you ever come out to anybody during your whole career? Did you ever know any other service members who were gay?

Brenda A. Vosbein:

Oh yes. When I was stationed at Fort McClellan, and I was not out to myself. verybody else took it for granted. They knew before I did. I was originally assigned there as a training officer and they had drill sergeants. I'd have drill sergeants sit down next to me and start talking about problems that they were having with their girlfriends. Then one day, this gal I was telling you about, with whom I had this platonic relationship, she was going to the field, which she knew she didn't have to do. So she came and she needed something adjusted on her boots or something like that on her field uniform, which she didn't usually wear. So I did something, and she leaves. The company clerk says to me, "Ma'am your girlfriend isn't very stressed." So again, other people saw that relationship. I mean I didn't see it for what it was at the time. But other people did and other people just took it for granted. So I had everybody talking to me as if I was gay. The early days of the WAC--the WAC was the standard and then we were integrated into the regular service.

Steve Gatwick:

Could you talk just a little bit about what WAC was?

Brenda A. Vosbein:

Women's Army Corps. When the women first started off in the Army, they were very segregated from the men. Women served in units that were commanded by women. You lived in a barracks where everybody else was a female. You may have gone out to work at the hospital or some other job on post, but you always came back to be under the command or supervision of other female NCOs or other female officers--things like that. When the Army was integrated, then you could be a woman commanding men. You could be a woman assigned to a unit commanded by men. So you began being integrated. I remember one time at Fort Huachuca, when I was there, the unit I belonged to had one female enlisted soldier, and they had no idea where they were going to put her. So they had to take part of the first sergeant's office and make a room, because they had no place for just one woman. But anyway, back in the days of the WAC when I first went in, to be a woman in the military at that time, you had to be unmarried with no children, so the majority of careerist were lesbian, because they couldn't get married and they couldn't have children. Now some of those regulations changed, so women could be married, but they couldn't have dependents. Then they could have children. As the requirements have been eliminated, you see a much broader spectrum in the military. But that's why at Fort McClellan when I was there, when you had an entire battalion of basic trainees and officer trainees. Everything at Fort McClellan at that time, women outnumbered men. It was the WAC center, where all WACs were trained. So consequently, everybody around there, the senior NCOs and senior officers were all either lesbians or at least people who were sort of used to being around lesbians, because that's the way it was at the time just because it was the way the regulations made it to be that way. So I got exposed to it then. But I was fighting a lot of religious issues with myself I felt, "This is wrong. This isn't natural. This isn't right." So I didn't actually come out--I don't know if I can put my finger on a year--but it was after I came out to California with the reserves. I had my first lesbian affair at that time. It was a brief coming out affair, and then a short time later, I met my present partner. We met in '77, got together as a couple in '79, and we've been together ever since.

Steve Gatwick:

It's so good to hear about long-term relationships. I'm guessing that was something that you had to quietly do, because your partner was somebody else in the military?

Brenda A. Vosbein:

No, she was never in the military. I want to talk about the open secret. The open secret was that a lot of people, kind-of knew. But it's a secret that no-one talked about but they knew. For instance, one time I was a captain with this other fellow who was a major and we were at a meeting in Los Alamitos, Cahfornia, and Diana came to the unit for some reason. He met her, blah, blah, blah. She was bringing me something or picking up something. Then, years later, I was a Lieutenant colonel and he was a colonel and we were sharing an office. She called and he answered the phone. It was Diana calling for me. After I hung up he said, "Oh, are you two still together?" One time I brought her to a family day and the XO said something like, "Oh, is this your partner in crime." I mean maybe he didn't know what he was saying, but she said to me later, "I was tempted to say, 'No, it's legal in California now.'" But she didn't. My appearance, I've always looked kind of butchy, so a lot of people would drop hints to me--other lesbians and gays and not necessarily straight folks. They'd say, "Oh, I went to see this movie" or "I went here or did that." By dropping names, you could tell. I had a number of friends who were gay or lesbian that I met while I was in the military. But like I said, a lot of the straight people knew Diana was important. One day I came home from--I don't even remember where I was--she says, "Well, lieutenant so-and-so called and he wanted to talk to you about some problem." But she says, "I helped him problem solve it, and I think that this is what you would want them to do." So I said, "Ok, thanks for giving advice for me." Someone else called her once. I had gotten promoted to Lieutenant colonel and this person had gotten promoted to major and she needed shoulder boards for her dress blue uniform. So she called, and said did I still have my major shoulder boards. Diana said to her, "Well, are you an AG [Adjutant General] officer?" Because each branch in the army had it's own color as a background on the shoulder boards. This gal says, "Oh, are you in the military?" Diana says, "No, but I know how to talk the language by now." So for a couple of years--oh, another story with her. One night, I was at my unit and she got a call at home from a general, and she said that I was at the unit. So he called me there. When I get home, she said, "Did the general reach you?" And I said, "Yes." "Well, what did he want?" I was just about to rotate out of command, and I had told her I was going to retire as soon as I finished this tour as battalion commander. She said, "Well what did the general want?" I said, "Well, he offered me a job on his staff" She said, "Well, what did you say?" I said yes. She went, "If I'd have known who he was, I would have said, "No, she's not home, but this is her lesbian lover, do you want me to take a message?" Because when we first got together, I had nine years of service at the time, and I said, "In eleven years, I can retire." Because she was never happy about the amount of time that the military took away from other things. But then, twenty years came, and I wasn't ready to call it quits, so I said, "Well, after this battalion command." After that, he offered me a job. So it ended up being twenty years after we got together instead of the original eleven that I had promised her. She said, "Well, you miss everything that's important because of the Army. The Army always comes first. You're always off at some exercise. You're off at drill. You're at the unit doing administrative stuff. Whenever there's something important going on, you're off with the Army. The Army and it's mission always come first, which is probably something you hear from anybody in the military. It's the culture. Everything does come first. So I missed an awful lot of things in her life or our shared life that I should have been there for, so she really was very when I finally did retire.

Steve Gatwick:

So tell me a little bit about your process when you were--now were you honorably discharged?

Brenda A. Vosbein:

I retired.

Steve Gatwick:

How did that lead to the lawsuit?

Brenda A. Vosbein:

Well, the lawsuit happened before I retired. Was it '93 when "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was passed? At that time I was a battalion commander. Lambda Legal Defense and Education determined that they were going to challenge "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" using people who were still in the military, not people who had been discharged. So they advertised in a number of publications what they were looking for. I saw the ad, and I called them, and I said that I was still in the service and I would be willing to participate and that I wanted to participate in this lawsuit.

Steve Gatwick:

What made you want to do that?

Brenda A. Vosbein:

You know, I can't say exactly why I wanted to do it, but I just felt that I had to do something, that we had a policy in place that was a ridiculous policy, because I had served for so many years with so many people that I knew were gay and were outstanding soldiers. Officers, enlisted--they ran the gamut. I mean, yes, there were some that I wasn't fond of and would never want to be friends with, but in general, most of the gays and lesbians that I served with in the military did a good job, and I would have been proud to call them a friend any time. So I did want to do something to change the policy. When I called Lambda, they said, "Well, the first thing we're going to do is get a court injunction that says that while this suit is in progress, that no action can be tacken against any participants." And they said, "We'll use pseudonyms to protect your identity." I said, "Ok, that all sounds good. No problem." When the briefs started to appear at the house, I noticed that there was "Jane Able" and all of these other people with real names. Like Ken Osboume's name was there and everyone else's real name was there. I called Lambda and I said, "I notice that everyone else is using their real names. I have no problem." I retired twenty years in. If they kick me out I still have a retirement. I didn't have as much to lose as someone who might have had eighteen years in. Diana would not have been upset at all if they had kicked me out at that time. And at that time, I was also planning on retiring in '94, which would have been the end of my battalion command tour. So when I said that to them, they said, "No, we don't want to use your name, because we listed all of the plaintiffs alphabetically, and you would have been second to last, but because you're the only woman and the senior person in the lawsuit, we want to use you as the lead plaintiff" And they came up with the name "Jane Able," because they wanted a name that would sound like a capable, strong name. So "Able" was the name they came up with. So the case became Able vs. the United States of America because they wanted me to be the lead plaintiff

Steve Gatwick:

So this lawsuit was filed in 1993, and what happened after that?

Brenda A. Vosbein:

Again, the time frames and things have gotten blurry over the years. There were a number of briefs long before this thing went to trial. We would get constantly something every day almost something from the lawyers with briefs or things that they had filed. It may have been in the spring of '94 that we actually had the trial. I think the law was passed in '93, so I think it was probably spring of '94, maybe April that the trial was held in New York. It was actually in a courthouse in Brookljm. They filed it there. Four of us were from the West Coast, but we had one Coast Guard fellow who lived in New York City. They filed there because of the court's history. They felt they had a very favorable court to work with. We had a judge by the name of Nickerson. He wrote a very good opinion, decision in our behalf, in which he says that the policy is based on nothing but prejudice and ignorance. We had a lot of good testimony to that effect from people like the group in Santa Barbara [Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military]. Their research. The retired general who was not a lesbian, Evelyn Pat Foot, you may have heard about her. She testified in our behalf, because she was at Fort McClellan as a battalion commander and battalion XO back when we had the WAC, and she knew that most of the drill sergeants and many of the officers there were lesbians. She testified on our behalf. The military just presented their stack of rules and regulations and our opinions as to why gays shouldn't serve in the military. His decision was very well-worded and I really liked it. It went to the appeals level. At appeals level, they kicked it back and said, "Well, we want some more information." So again the lawyers filed briefs back and forth. Other than having these things show up in my mailbox, I really didn't have much idea of what was going on. I just read stuff when they sent it to us. Then it went up to the appeals court a second time. The Appeals Court finally just admitted, "You know, we don't really want to touch this." The courts usually do not like to interfere with the Congress' running of the military. "That's Congress' job, we're not going to interfere." At that time, we had a meeting with the attorneys. The attorneys felt that we only had one negative appeals ruling, and if we took it to the Supreme Court and we would be more likely to get a ruling that would be much harder to overturn if they went against us. So they thought it was better to drop the case and see if they could get appeals courts in different circuits to have differing opinions. Then we could go and the Court would have to look at, "Well, this judge and this judge and this judge said, 'It's unconstitutional.' This one, this one, and this one, said it is. At that point, they were only reviewing one appeals court decision and they probable would have said the same thing. That would have been to uphold Congress' right to regulate the military. So it was dropped and it just kind of went away.

Steve Gatwick:

Then you retired the following year?

Brenda A. Vosbein:

No, at that time I had gotten another job, remember. So I moved to another unit, and I stayed in that unit and had two or three different jobs in that unit and then finally retired. I was coming up on what in the military is called MRD--Mandatory Retirement Date. And the policy was that as a Lieutenant Colonel you could have 28 years of division service. If I had been a full colonel, I could have had thirty years of service. But because I was enlisted before I was commissioned, I ended up serving 29 years, because my enlisted year didn't count toward that 28. So I was just shy of mandatory retirement when it just reached a good point to retire, but I had to do it in six months anyway.

Steve Gatwick:

So when you finally did retire that was when?

Brenda A. Vosbein:

'99. I had 29 years, so it must have been '99, because I enlisted in 1970.

Steve Gatwick:

So that's six years during "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and 23 years during the previous policy. What do you think, I pretty much ask everybody we interview, what do you think it is about American culture or military culture that has kept us irom dropping this ban when so many of our allies have.

Brenda A. Vosbein:

I think a number of things. I do think that there is a strong hang-up about sex in the United States. You can go sunbathing in France. In Sweden, they censor the violence, but not the sex in their movies. Americans censor the sex, but not the violence. So they have a much different idea about what's important. Sex is natural; violence isn't. So I think their attitudes in many ways about sex are a lot more liberal. Then, I think we have a strong and getting ever stronger, very conservative, fundamentalist Christian movement in this country. I say getting stronger. It used to be that the Southern Baptist, that that mentality was very strong in the South. But fundamentalism like that is getting stronger in other parts of the country, which would usually be Episcopalians, Presbyterians, you know, the more liberal Christian denominations. I put in both things: the hang-up about sex and our religious culture, which is getting stronger, especially in the political realm right now. I think the influence of conservative Christianity on our government officials is stronger than ever.

Steve Gatwick:

And what do you think it would take to drop the ban?

Brenda A. Vosbein:

I'd like to say that common sense will finally win out, but I don't know if I can be that bold. Even if we have surveys, saying that seventy percent of the United States residents favor dropping the ban, I don't expect that to persuade Congress, because those aren't the seventy percent that vote. The ones that vote are the most conservative, and I think the politicians know that their base of support comes from the conservative side and not the liberal side. Liberalism has almost become a four-letter word. You just have to change the spelling somewhat. On one side, I want to feel positive that it will change. And the other side of me is saying that it's going to take a longer fight than people think. We think we're close, and yes they've introduced this new law in Congress right now, but I'm not real optimistic that we'll see something happen real soon. Even though one side of me would certainly like to say I'm optimistic. I just feel like a stranglehold over politicians. Even those who are favorable to lifting it, they're still afraid to lift it, because they listen to their conservative voting base and they also listen to the big wigs at the Pentagon who say that this will cause the military to fall apart.

Steve Gatwick:

What would you say to straight servicemembers and straight people anywhere to calm their fears. What would you say to them about the whole idea that gay people will ruin the military.

Brenda A. Vosbein:

The only thing that I would try to do would be to say that we have always served. We've been there in every war throughout the history of this country. The number of gay vets is large. There are still gays serving. The problem doesn't seem to be on the day-to-day basis. Because there are a lot of folks who will tell the same story I did. It was an open secret. You didn't talk about it openly with straight soldiers, but yet everyone just kind of took for granted. Nothing was ever said. Nothing was ever done. Yeah, this person is gay. So if we're there and we're not causing problems. A person finding out that you're gay shouldn't change that much. It will change some things. But the majority of people will say, "I know you. You're an ok person. We've gotten along before. It shouldn't be a problem to continue to have a good, working relationship." Although there will be some who will freak out and say, "Oh my gosh, I don't really know you. Or I don't want to take a shower with you." It's just illogical since we are there. We've always been there. The fact that someone is open is not going to change that much. And I don't think that most gays are instantly going to come out just because they drop the ban. They can just stop living in fear. That's all the ban causes someone to do, live in fear that someone is going to find out, that someone's going to overhear something, someone's going to see something and say, "Ah, that looks like a normal person--not a normal person--but a person would assume indicates homosexuality. Whereas in actuality, I wouldn't come out to most straight soldiers anyway. I would have pretty much continued to live the way I did with or without the ban, because I didn't really try to hide. It's not like I tried to tell people I had a boyfriend. I would have lived the same way, but there wouldn't have been the fear that someone could say, "I know what this relationship is. Let's do an investigation to find out more." Because it wouldn't have taken much investigating to discover my sexuality, if you went through my mailbox and saw who I got mail from. If you went to every gay parades, I usually drove a convertible, because my partner was the president of a large lesbian organization, so I was usually her driver in all of the gay parades. So it wouldn't have taken much if someone had wanted to do an investigation. So if they had lifted the ban, I wouldn't have changed. I wouldn't have walked into every staff meeting and said, "I'm the new gal on the block and I want you to know I'm a lesbian."

Steve Gatwick:

So you had some fear, but you also had a 29-year career.

Brenda A. Vosbein:

That's because I refused to be governed by fear. Yes, there was always that undercurrent that you can be uncovered that something can happen, but I can't live my life that way. That's a chance I have to take.

Steve Gatwick:

Do you think that has something to do with your personal values and the things that inspired you to join the military in the first place?

Brenda A. Vosbein:

To some degree. One thing I prided myself on as an officer is that I would always look out for my soldiers. I would always look downward rather than upward. One of the problems that I think is common in the military is that officers look at who is writing their efficiency report and who is rating them, rather than looking downward. I always felt that my primary responsibility was to protect my soldiers even if it meant getting the higher-ups mad at me for something that I did. I would not let fear of a higher ranking officer make me do something that I didn't want to do.

Steve Gatwick:

Great. That's about all. We just have a few more questions. Tell me, what does patriotism mean to you, and do you think of yourself as patriotic?

Brenda A. Vosbein:

I definitely consider myself a patriot. I remember when I first got off of active duty and I was being interviewed by the commanding officer of this reserve battalion. He said, "Why do you want to stay in the reserves when you left active duty?" I said, "All I have to do is hear the opening bars of the National Anthem and the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It just sends a tingle down my spine. It's something that I relate to--pride in the flag, pride in people in uniform. This is something that elicits a very strong response in me. So yes, I definitely consider myself a patriot. I would have never hesitated to bear arms. At the time I came in, women weren't even allowed to touch weapons. Later on, you had to qualify with weapons, and I was never in a position where I had to fight. But I would have never hesitated to be in Iraq now if I was still in the military--to do whatever was necessary. Not that I necessarily support the war, but I support the troops and the efforts of those troops, and I would gladly support them in whatever way I could.

Steve Gatwick:

Did you earn certain commendations and medals during your career?

Brenda A. Vosbein:

Let's see, I've got the meritorious service medal and if I remember correctly, I've got two oak leaf clusters. Oak leaf clusters mean the second and the third award. You get the medal the first time and each time after that, you get this little device for it. I have a total of three meritorious service medals, four army commendation medals, the army achievement medal, good conduct medal, army reserve service medal, two national defense service medals, one is for being on active duty during the time of the Vietnam War and the other was during the time of the Gulf War.

Steve Gatwick:

That' s very inspiring. Is there anything else that you'd like to add or say. Sort of a message to the closeted troops out there.

Brenda A. Vosbein:

One thing I do want to say is that I thoroughly enjoyed the military. It was a highlight of my life. I still get Army Times, even though I've been retired for years. It was something that was a very, very important part of my life. I encourage people to look at the Army as a career, and if not a career, as a way to get an education, to get away from whatever in life might not be good in their surroundings. I loved the military. It's not necessarily good for everybody, but it was good for me. For the troops who are there now, I'm not encouraging them to come out, that's for sure, not unless they're just ready to get out anyway and they're just trying to make a statement. I'd encourage them to stay in, do a good job, so that when they do leave the military, they can say, "I served with honor, I left with honor, and no matter what my sexual orientation is, you cannot take from me a good military career.

Steve Gatwick:

Thank you very much.

Brenda A. Vosbein:

Thank you for the opportunity.

 
Home » Text Transcript
  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
  Legal | External Link Disclaimer Need Help?   
Contact Us