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Tom Philpott has been breaking news for and about military people since 1977. After service in the Coast Guard, and 17 years as a reporter and senior editor with Army Times Publishing Company, Tom launched "Military Update," his syndicated weekly news column, in 1994. "Military Update" features timely news and analysis on issues affecting active duty members, reservists, retirees and their families.

Visit Tom Philpott's Military Update Archive to view his past articles.

Tom also edits a reader reaction column, "Military Forum." The online "home" for both features is

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Tom's freelance articles have appeared in numerous magazines including The New Yorker, Reader's Digest and Washingtonian. His critically-acclaimed book, Glory Denied, on the extraordinary ordeal and heroism of Col. Floyd "Jim" Thompson, the longest-held prisoner of war in American history, is available in hardcover and paperback.

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Complaints Over Time Off for Gays to Wed Flood In

Readers of Tom Philpott’s Military Update Column Sound Off

I believe everyone should have the right to marry and be happy with whatever partner they choose. However, I don't believe they should be compensated for it.

It's unfair to everyone else in the military to travel out of state for various reasons such as to visit loved ones left behind. For instance, a National Guard soldier involuntarily mobilized to a border patrol mission in Arizona does not get extra leave to go see their children or spouse. They use leave they are entitled to.

Exceptions should not be made for race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.  If people choose to get married, then they need to use the leave they already are entitled to, gay or straight. 

Second Lieutenant, AG
Via email

How many of our top brass are so affected by this issue that they moved like lightning to correct a problem that does not even exist?

I thought Chuck Hagel's experience as an infantry sergeant in Vietnam would prepare him to push past the BS politics and do what's right for the military services. Guess I blew that call.

In growing up an Army brat and serving 27 years in the Air Force, I have observed how unfair policies affecting just one percent of military personnel can go unaddressed for a decade or more before anyone even thinks to reform the rules.

In this case, however, before full benefits for same-sex married couples have even begun, before anyone has had time to even complain about hardships incurred in having to take annual leave in another state to get married, this rule is being implemented.

The unfairness is to the millions who have served before this horrific policy change and to those who disagree with it and continue to serve.

I'm no longer proud of my service, and will not recommend military service to anyone else in my family -- ever.

Senior Master Sergeant, USAF-Ret.
Via email

As a military retiree who got married while on active duty, I remember the process was pretty simple.

Submit request chit to get married.

Submit request chit if going out of the local area.

Submit leave slip (chargeable) if you want leave in connection with above.

The process is not broken.  Don't fix it.  Same-sex couples can use it.Then we don't have to get into special groups, special rules and special compensation just because of sexual orientation.

Lieutenant, USNR-Ret.
Via email

I am so happy to see that I am not the only one upset by this [marriage administrative absence] policy. 

My husband is a Navy SEAL officer (24 years now).  We were married 21 years ago.  We both flew to Vegas from our home states and were married at midnight, returning the next day to our separate states.  He was officer in charge of a platoon and doing work-ups at the time. 

We got less than 24 hours together.  Later he mailed me keys to an apartment he rented in Coronado, Calif., as he was leaving on assignment.  I loaded my two children into an old truck and, with the engine over heating, barely made it over the California Mountains.  We had no time to combine checking accounts so I was stressed too not having access to money. 

We had to endure these hardships, and were “punished” with a harder start to our marriage than I would have if today if I married a woman soldier.

This new policy is unfair and wrong for all of us who have done things by the rules.  It’s reverse discrimination at it's max -- unless all previously married veterans and current active duty members get 10 paid days off and those who marry get 10 days R&R.

Via email

Mistakes by our civilian leaders continue to degrade the armed forces.

I am proud to have served and retired from the Air Force.  I am not proud of what they are doing to our military now with prolonged war assignments, gay preferential treatment, sequestration and more.

Is this an all-volunteer force?

The draft armed forces sure seemed like a better way to run a ship, walk a mile or fly the sky.

Via email

I too am disgusted by the new marriage leave policy.  It doesn't make any sense.  Consider a new recruit who leaves behind a sweetheart and later decides to marry her.  Most likely he will return to his home to marry while being stationed far away.  Yet he doesn't receive the same [administrative absence] benefit?  That’s outrageous!

I too would like some back pay.  In 1956, while stationed in Germany, I married a girl in Holland.

Master Sergeant, USA-Ret.

What nonsense to oppose marriage leave for LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] service personnel! To equate this with special treatment is asinine.  LGBT service personnel are discriminated against in some states, which is why this leave is needed.

When Jim Crow laws still ruled the South, African American service personnel in mixed marriages were not stationed in those states because interracial marriage was illegal.  Was that discrimination against single-race married couples, or was it a way to right the wrong being perpetrated against these individuals by individual states?

This is not a case of special privilege.  It is a case of corrective action.  Hopefully the day will soon come when LGBT marriage is available in every state, making the need for such special leave status moot.

Honorably Discharged Veteran
USAF, 1976-1980

I was lucky to see the birth of my kids on my own dime and own time.  I sure as heck got no special privileges when I got married.

My aircrew that week ended up pulling an alert tour.  I went on alert, got off alert, got married and then went back on alert.  Our honeymoon came only after the alert tour ended!

What's next, free transgender surgery (plus leave, of course)?

Oh wait.  You can already get that.  Just sell out your country, go to prison and get a sex change on the government’s dime.

What is happening to this country?  I am embarrassed that our armed forces have become a playground for social experiments conducted by our wimpy politicians.

Via email

Letters may be edited for clarity or length.  Write to Military Forum, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA 20120-1111, send e-mail to or visit

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Gays in the Military Military Marriage Tom Philpott Military Forum