Schweinfurt, Germany--An Ohio soldier is the first Purple Heart recipient in the Iraq war to come out as a gay man in protest of the military�s �don�t ask don�t tell� policy.
Sgt. Robert Stout, 23, of Utica, about 25 miles northeast of Columbus, is a combat engineer attached to the Ninth Engineer Battalion stationed in Schweinfurt, Germany. He was wounded in Iraq in May, 2004.
Stout was part of an explosive ordinance disposal team charged with clearing roads around Baghdad of bombs and mines so supply trucks could travel safely.
According to Army spokesperson Major Bill Coppernoll, Stout was injured by a rocket-propelled grenade on May 5, 2004. The RPG blew his goggles off and sent shrapnel into his face, arms and legs, temporarily rendering him blind and deaf. He was evacuated to Landstuhl Medical Facility in Germany, where he was treated and returned to Iraq last July.
He came out publicly in an April 8 Associated Press story, and the Army has indicated it may not prosecute him for violating �don�t ask, don�t tell� before he is scheduled to leave the service next month.
Though he is talking to other media, Stout�s handlers, the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military at the University of California at Santa Barbara, are not permitting him to speak to gay newspapers. They referred all questions to spokesperson Nathaniel Frank.
Frank said that Stout joined the Army right out of high school, having been inspired to service by his brother, who is in the Army Corps of Engineers, and his father who was in the Air Force.
Frank added that he thought Stout was out to his mother and youngest sister, who are �okay with his being gay.�
Stout�s father, he thought, may have learned of his son�s sexual orientation through news coverage. Emerson Stout hung up on this reporter after accusing the media of �promoting a disgusting, sinful lifestyle.�
Neither Frank nor Coppernoll knew when Army commanders learned that Stout is gay.
But Frank said Stout �was not dating anyone before he was wounded,� and that five of the eight members of his squadron and 12 of the 100 members of his company knew before he went public.
Frank added that Stout was never personally harassed for being gay, nor did he witness anyone else being harassed for being gay during his tenure.
Stout, whose tour was already extended one year due to a �stop loss� order for the Iraq war, is scheduled to leave the Army on May 31.
Asked about Stout�s timing for going public, Frank replied, �I�m not surprised that people question his timing, but he just found out about us. He�s happy to help illuminate the [don�t ask don�t tell] policy, and would like to make the military live up to its ideals.�
Frank also said that Stout would re-enlist for another tour if the policy did not exist.
Coppernoll said the Army had no plan to hold Stout on another stop-loss order, and didn�t know if the Army was planning to prosecute Stout under �don�t ask don�t tell� prior to his planned separation.
A new stop-loss order would be needed to retain Stout if they did proceed with prosecution.
Stout is currently in Schweinfurt awaiting his exit processing.
A bill to repeal the �don�t ask� policy, enacted by Congress in 1993, continues to pick up support.
The bill, called the Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2005, was introduced March 2 by Massachusetts Democrat Rep. Marty Meehan with 40 co-sponsors. It has picked up 30 more Democrat co-sponsors and three Republicans, including openly gay Jim Kolbe of Arizona and the moderate Chris Shays of Connecticut.
The bill is in the House Armed Services Committee. It has not yet had a hearing.
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