Reporting Steve Miller
CHICAGO (WBBM) – As soon as the news broke Tuesday that the Pentagon had started accepting openly gay recruits for the first time ever, a Chicago man kicked out of the Coast Guard 8 years ago under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was on the phone with a recruiter.
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The Coast Guard career of Lee Reinhart, 37, started unraveling in 2002 when he went to a gay bar with some female crew members who came back to the ship, talking about what a good time they’d had at the bar – with Reinhart.
On Tuesday, when he heard the news that the military was accepting openly gay recruits, he told Newsradio 780 he picked up the phone to call a recruiter.
“Yes. I have been on the phone all day. All afternoon. I think that announcement broke a couple of hours ago and I haven’t been off the phone since.”
Reinhart says serving his country is important.
“To me it’s one of the most … to me it’s my legacy for myself and for my family.”
Reinhart says recruiters have been professional and seem to be willing to help as he tries to return to military service.
“My hopes are very high now. I hope I don’t get shot down here in the next day or so, but… it’s one of these things I fought so hard for and I really want to be able to serve again.”
Reinhart says politicians who want to keep the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy are wrong when they say the military would be hurt if gays serve openly.
“Our leaders don’t give these men and women enough credit to be able to have the professionalism to serve with openly gay men and women.”
“I really want to go back in. I really want to finish something I started. And I didn’t get to finish it in the Coast Guard.”