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Wednesday, January 16 2013

Walker Burttschell: A Catholic Face of Don't Ask Don't Tell

 Walker Burttschell

Walker Burtschell
A Catholic Face of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell


I am a U.S. Marine and I was discharged because of 'Don't Ask, "Don't Tell".

I was raised in a devoutly Catholic and patriotic family, from which, many generations have served in the military. It had always been my goal to one day serve as an officer in the military and hopefully have a life long career doing so.

The day after September 11th, I dropped out of college and enlisted in the Marine Corps. I felt an overwhelming sense of duty and patriotism and felt a personal responsibility to enlist.

The day I became a U.S. Marine was and forever will be the greatest day of my life. I entered my first duty station very proud and excited of what laid before me. For the most part, most of my friends in the Marines knew that I was gay and never did I get any homophobic vibes from them. Sadly, one day a friend of one of my roommates threatened to out me to my Commanding Officer. I took his threats seriously and realized that if I was outted and discharged because of DADT, my family would be extremely disappointed in me (at that time, I was not out). I became extremely depressed, reclusive and eventually suicidal. Being discharged and being outted to my family was just not an option and I felt my life was about to end.

I was hospitalized at Camp Lejeune's hospital and put on suicide watch. Because of the messages I grew up receiving from the Church, I didn’t feel I could turn to our Catholic Chaplain, and instead met with a psychiatrist who I didn’t think would judge me the way a priest would.   I felt comfortable enough to admit my sexual orientation to him, feeling confident that there existed some form of patient/physician confidentiality. Sadly, it was his comments in my medical records that would out me to the Corps.

Thankfully, with God's help, I was able to crawl out of this dark time in my life and realize that my personal experience could move the hearts of millions. For years I've lied about who I am and what has happened to me. I've realized that there is nothing to be ashamed of.

Now is my time to speak up and put a human face to this unfair policy.

~Semper Fidelis~


Tell Your Story!


There are many Catholic faces of DADT:

  • Brave lesbian and gay Catholic soldiers, like Walker, who were discharged under DADT
  • Straight Catholic soldiers, who are losing arab linguists and other critical soldiers, leaving their command in harms way and damaging unit cohesion
  • Proud Catholic parents of lesbian and gay soldiers, worried that our military chaplains might not be able to meet spiritual needs in times of crisis

Whatever your story, as a Catholic, your story can make a difference.

Share your story!

Catholics for Equality is gathering our stories to help educate Catholic Members of Congress and military officials that this issue effects all Catholics in America, not just our Catholic lesbian and gay soldiers serving in fear and silence.   Email your story, along with a photo, to dadt@catholicsforequality.org



A Message from the Acting Executive Director


Dear Catholics for Equality Supporter:

I've been helping citizens tell the truths of their lives to Members of Congress for over twenty years, but few stories have caught me off guard and moved me like that of Walker Burttschell. 

I had the honor of meeting Walker this Spring, when he came to Washington to lobby for the repeal of  Don't Ask Don't Tell.   Being both from Florida, we were teamed up to meet with Senators Nelson and LeMieux, and with several targeted Florida Representatives.

My first impression of Walker was of a strong, brave and charismatic soldier - the kind Frank Capra would cast as Harry Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life."   He was innocent and unpolished, but happy and excited about doing something important.  I remember being proud to walk with him into our first meeting with my Congressman, Tom Rooney (FL-16). 

I started the meeting with all the Washington-speak, focus group, talking points about Don't Ask Don't Tell and then turned to Walker to ask him to explain why this issue was important to him.  Nobody had preapred me for what I was about to hear our how it was going to change my life.

Walker's story brought all of us to tears and made reaffirmed in me a committment to repealing this law.  This is the Catholic face of Don't Ask Don't Tell.

Please join us in defending soldiers like Walker by picking up your phone and calling your Senators, urging them to Repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell.

Capitol Hill Switchboard:  202.224.3121

The call only takes a minute, but is more powerful than any work we could ever do here in Washington.

Yours in the Christ, and in the united stand for equality,

+ Phil Attey,
Catholics for Equality

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