Washington, D.C. defense think tanks estimate more than 14,000 American service members had their careers cut short by “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The policy, which cost taxpayers more than a half billion dollars since first enacted in 1993, made it a punishable offense and grounds for dishonorable discharge for any active duty member of the U.S. military to admit they were gay. It was officially repealed on Sept. 20, 2011.

On Tuesday, veterans across the country celebrated the five-year anniversary of its repeal. American Veterans For Equal Rights released the following statement:

“Five years ago the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell went into effect. As flags were lowered in Retreat ceremonies at military installations around the globe the sun set on the last day of one of the most discriminatory anti-LGBT laws in history, and the nation's evolving acceptance of its LGBT citizens took a major step forward. American Veterans for Equal Rights was on the front line of that battle, and today we wish to thank all our faithful members who supported our efforts to remove a nearly century old policy that undermined the very mission of our armed forces, the defense of our nation's freedom as clearly defined in the United States Constitution. To all of you, and all our sister organizations who worked so hard to make that victory possible, our sincerest appreciation,” AVER stated in an e-mail to members.

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U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) said the repeal was a major milestone of the Barack Obama administration.

“The repeal of this policy was a major milestone to ensuring no one is denied an opportunity to serve in our armed forces because of their sexual orientation,” Wasserman Schultz said in a news release. “We hope that all young people aspire to a career that helps enrich our nation, including serving in our armed forces.”

Scott Herman, a disabled Gulf War combat veteran, applauded the demise of DADT, but acknowledged there is still work to be done to heal ex-service members. During the time of DADT, Herman said, there were incidents of “bad dates” or “break-ups” that resulted in collateral damage to closeted service members. Attempts to "out" gay and lesbian active duty members of the U.S. military is flat out wrong, Herman said.
“Without realizing nor caring that it (outing) caused many to be denied health coverage for military service illnesses,” Herman said.

Herman, who is campaigning for a seat on the Oakland Park Commission and regularly attends meetings at U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs in Miami, said military brass is working diligently to correct service records. Many of the dishonorable discharges associated with gay and lesbian service members were the result of homosexuality being diagnosed as a mental illness.

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