I’m From Kewanee, IL.

by Ryan Branom

State Satellite overhead image from Google Earth 2022

On that fateful day, I stepped into my guidance counselor’s office and asked, “Is he here yet?”

She shook her head. “What made you decide this?”

“I’m not sure.” And the truth of the matter was that I really wasn’t sure at all. Everyone has those spur of the moment decisions where they realize that maybe they want to break out and try something new.

A moment later, I heard a knock on the door. I turned around, and there he was. Standing over six foot tall, dressed nicely in white dress slacks and a military jacket, on the other side of that door stood a Marines staff sergeant, and he was here to talk to me. Ryan, the smart kid with the awesome grades. Ryan, the kid who had never joined a sports team after 6th grade. Ryan, the open–and ever so slightly blatant–homosexual.

The staff sergeant came in, and we talked for quite some time. We’d discussed many things: how I’ll be able to go to college and serve as a Marine; how my intelligence would be greatly cherished in the Marines; why I should join. But never once did we discuss my sexual orientation. I suppose that sometimes, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell seems like a good idea after all.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think it’s okay for the gay community to be limited in how open they are in the military, but I do think that, as an unimportant factor in this case, it makes sense not to worry about it. What’s really important is personal development, the reason why I’ve chosen to follow this path in my life, serving as a member of the U.S. Marine Core as a gay teenager.

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