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"Nobody joins the military for a date." (Audio interview, 15:08)

   Miriam Ben-Shalom
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War: Cold War
Branch: Army
Unit: 84th Division; 5091st Reception Battalion
Service Location: Fort McClellan, Alabama; Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Fort McCoy and Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Rank: Staff Sergeant
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Though initially she had joined the military hoping to be assigned duty as a chaplain, Miriam Ben-Shalom found her niche as a drill sergeant. The case of Leonard Matlovich, an Airman who outed himself to the military to fight the ban on LGBT servicemembers, spurred her to speak out against the military’s exclusionary policies, eventually resulting in her discharge in 1976. She fought back in court and won the right to re-enlist. In her interview, conducted in 2004, before the repeal of the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy, she asks, "I want to know: when do I get to be an American - whole and complete, same as anybody else?"

Interview (Audio)
»Interview Highlights  (6 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: audio (78 min.)
 Other Materials
»AVER [American Veterans for Equal Rights] newsletter [Nov. 2004]
 Audio (Interview Excerpts) (6 items)
Integration of the Army; became a drill sergeant; giving orders to male soldiers. (02:14) Inspired by Leonard Matlovich’s picture on the cover of Time Magazine; deciding not to lie; receiving an honorable discharge. (03:23) Influence of Jewish faith on her activism. (03:23)
Treatment by fellow soldiers after she was reinstated. (01:10) Feeling of hope when Clinton became President; disappointment with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. (03:01) Thoughts on discrimination against gays in the military; anger toward being treated like less than a whole American. (01:25)

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  October 26, 2011
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