There’s a story from the Desert Fathers – I’ll credit Abba Paphnutius (one of you Patristics experts will correct me, but I’ve always wanted to use his name):   

A pilgrim was traveling cross-country and came upon a village, at the center of which was a stone-walled monastery. The pilgrim wondered who was inside and what they were doing, the village, a hive of activity, but the monastery quiet and placid. He approached and knocked on the door. The porter came, swung open the small iron grill and said, “Your blessing, please.”  The pilgrim asked, “What is it you men do all day inside the monastery?”  The kindly monk replied, “We fall down and get up…we fall down and get up…”   


“I Am Not A Homosexual”  

In 1988, I was an Air Force ROTC cadet at the University of Missouri-Columbia and presented with a contract pledging four years active service in exchange for the military paying for school. At the end of the contract was the clause: “I am not a homosexual. I have never engaged in homosexual activities, nor will I in the future.”  Homosexuality was a prosecutorial offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) before the days of “Don’t Ask / Don’t Tell.”  I paused, confused, read it over and over again then hyper-aware I was taking so long; embarrassed someone should notice my delay, I hurriedly signed the contract. Later, I pondered: “Why did I hesitate? What does that mean?”  No one had ever asked me that before, certainly had never asked myself that before, and yet there it was lying on the floor.  The ensuing four years were revelatory, packed with furtive acting out and trips back & forth to the confessional. The reality was inescapable & there was no other word for it at the time: I was gay. And I was absolutely devasted. Me. A model cadet in high school, now college; a practicing Catholic from a good, unsullied family. How could I be one of those?   


The Gay 90’s 

I stayed closeted till graduation and commissioning. The summer of ’92 was my ‘coming out’ which brought feelings of freedom and acceptance from the local gays and I started drifting from my faith and the Church.  I simply could not reconcile my feelings with Church teaching. Gay friends helped me understand that I was coming to terms with who I really was. You’ve heard it all before: “God don’t make no junk,” “You’ve repressed who you are out of fear” etc. I told my siblings but avoided my parents, who got the news later from my sisters anyway. I heard from my sister Cheryln who was in the room at the time. Mom collapsed and screamed, “Oh God, not my baby.” Needless to say, I didn’t come home much in the 90’s.  

After 18 months in South Dakota, I transferred to Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., where I really began living the intoxicating(ed) gay life. One still needed to remain hidden, but as an Army Intelligence Officer at the Pentagon once cautioned me, “You’re kidding yourself if you think they don’t know about you.” Sure enough, sometime later a Master Sergeant confidante approached me and said, “Captain, we think the Colonel knows about you.”  This particular Colonel had turned from collegial to cool and even ignored me while sitting as jurists on a court martial, which got me to thinking, “Did I want to suffer my own court martial, merely for being who I am?”  No, I did not.  I resigned my commission the following year and returned home.  

Since I sacrificed my military career to be gay, I said “Ok, let’s BE GAY!” I went to bartending school and began working in the gay community. One thing leads to another. I cannot say it was inevitable because plenty of gay men and women don’t succumb to drugs, but I did. It happens to many. I had lost my identity, seemingly my soul.  

 Stay tuned for the conclusion of Jeron’s blog post, which will be posted in The Upper Room on July 30th.

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Jeron S., aged 50 from St. Louis, Missouri, has been a member of the Courage Apostolate since 2005. He has a varied military and civilian history including Protocol at Andrews Air Force Base, adjuster for worker’s compensation in the moving and storage industry, Benedictine Novice, and licensed mixologist. Currently he is supervisor for Military Funeral Honors at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, MO.

The opinions and experiences expressed in each blog entry in “The Upper Room” belong solely to the original authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of Courage International, Inc. Some entries have been edited for length and clarity.