- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 3, 2000

Don't ask, don't tell until after the military has finished paying for your education. John Hensala, 35, was content to hide his homosexuality he says now he "didn't know he was gay" until later … much later, it turns out not until after the Air Force, and by proxy, taxpayers, had finished subsidizing his medical training at Northwestern University and then, subsequently, Yale University. Mr. Hensala's taxpayer-subsidized education was no gift; it was offered in return for a four-year commitment to the Air Force upon graduation. Some $70,000 in tuition later and seven months before the recently minted doctor was to don his uniform, per the agreement, he hired a lawyer and submitted the following memo to the Air Force:

"In light of recent policy changes concerning homosexuality … I have decided that I should inform you, prior to beginning active duty service, that I am gay …"

Well, good-bye student loans.

Mr. Hensala was discharged under the Clinton administration's policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" which bars open homosexuals from remaining in uniform.

Mr. Hensala now objects that the Air Force is attempting to recoup the money expended on his undergraduate and post-graduate education. In a lawsuit filed May 18, Mr. Hensala claims that he came out of the closet "very gradually, very reluctantly," according to an article in The Washington Post. The Air Force, meanwhile, believes that "There is very strong evidence that Capt. Hensala made the homosexual statement, hoping to trigger separation and avoid his active duty commitment."

The sympathies are clearly with the Air Force here and the taxpayers who have been gulled into bankrolling the pricey education of a pretty slick hustler who has cynically exploited the politics of the age, as well as the military's generous opportunities.

For the 35-year-old physician to claim that he "didn't know" he was gay until the moment he was through with his studies, and everything was all nice and paid for, strains credulity. As the Church Lady on "Saturday Night Live" might quip: "How convenient." It is a measure of our age that Mr. Hensala, apparently, feels no shame or guilt about what he has done which is steal an education that will enable him to earn a lucrative income and doesn't grasp that he's got a tab to attend to.

Mr. Hensala's separation from the Air Force is one thing; it is understandable that, being homosexual, the doctor might not be suited to military life. However, he did get his education; the Air Force lived up to its end of the bargain in educating him. What do we taxpayers get in return? Nothing. At least, not if the Air Force loses the coming court battle. Here's to hoping justice sees things in the proper perspective and submits a bill to Mr. Hensala for services rendered.

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