'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' costing UNC student

Sara Isaacson

May 27, 2010 6:38:35 AM PDT
A UNC student and former ROTC member could have to pay back $80,000 in financial aid, because she violated the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

Former ROTC Cadet Sara Isaacson says in the ROTC program, she learned about loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor and integrity - values, she says, that conflict with the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

"The 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' puts service members who identify something other than straight in a position where they really have to choose between either coming out and getting themselves fired for violating these values of integrity because it does force you to lie," Isaacson said.

A Wisconsin native, Isaacson signed up for UNC's ROTC program as straight after turning down a chance to study at West Point, but realized last December she was a lesbian.

She told her commander a month later and was dismissed from the program that day. Isaacson says she was told she would have to repay $80,000 of scholarship money.

Her plight is part of the reason North Carolina Congressman David Price has penned a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

It says in part, "...the practice of billing cadets expelled from the ROTC program, because of sexual orientation ... adds insult to injury. Denying brave men and women such as Ms. Isaacson the opportunity to serve their country ... is an affront to their human dignity."

"I hope that Secretary Gates takes that under consideration in his leadership," Isaacson said.

Isaacson says her life has been stressful but rewarding since she came out. She was among thousands in the nation's capital this month lobbying to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

"If that happens, I will go back into the military and I will serve," Isaacson said. "It's something I've wanted to do for the past eight years and that's not something that just goes away." Isaacson will graduate from UNC in May 2011, but doesn't know if she'll have to repay the tuition.

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