Fighting war on two fronts

Photo by Charity Mezzell / THE FLARE Howard D.Linson’s book is available at Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, iTunes and Amazon.
Photo by Charity Mezzell / THE FLARE
Howard D.Linson’s book is available at Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, iTunes and Amazon.

The words “with liberty and justice for all” conclude the pledge of allegiance, recited by hundreds nearly every day across the United States.
It has become the mission of former U.S. soldier Howard D. Linson to ensure those words continue to ring true for every American no matter their ethnicity, religious views or, in his case, sexual orientation.
This mission served as the driving force behind his memoir, titled The Untold Truth, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which describes his nine-year experience serving in the Army under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.
Having grown up in a military family, Linson spent his childhood listening to stories and watching Hollywood versions of the great wars of history. He was around the age of 15 when he decided he too wanted to pursue a future in the armed forces.
“I’m a big military movie guy and, at that age, I wanted to be a part of those types of covert ops missions … the way the movies portrayed [them],”Linson said.
Linson joined the U.S. Army in 1998 at the age of 18. He was deployed to Iraq from 2004-2005, a time which he describes as “a livable nightmare with no end in sight.”
According to Linson, his troubles began upon his first stint overseas, when fellow soldiers started accusing him of being “gay.” As the DADT policy, which was a law against homosexuals serving openly in the military, was in effect until its repeal in 2010, Linson was forced to hide the fact that he was bisexual.
He experienced daily requests of sexual favors from other male soldiers which only increased the extent of his abuse when Linson refused to give in.
“As time went on, my fellow soldiers’ behaviors became more aggressive, physically and emotionally, towards me,” Linson said. “I had soldiers threaten to kill me in front of my chain of command … while some sexually harassed me verbally, and physically as well.”
Throughout the entire duration of his time in Iraq, Linson was subject to such offenses. He claims that “nothing was done to prevent or stop” the continuous harassment.
Linson was even told that he was to blame for the abuse, implying that he was doing something to encourage the soldiers.
“For days and months on end, I had nowhere to run or no one to turn to,” Linson said.
On one occasion, Linson was a part of a convoy to Tikrit, Iraq, hometown of Saddam Hussein, when his truck broke down.
As his unit was waiting for his vehicle to be attached to the tow truck, he was instructed by his 1st Sergeant to run toward his vehicle, which was nearly a mile ahead of Linson’s. Linson was instructed to do so without any cover from the men in his unit.
“My fellow soldiers told me that it was better me than them [who had to run by themselves],” he said. “During that run, with my weapon at the ready … I looked … and saw that no one in my unit was turning around to come and get me, but allowed me to run through the down town area of Tikrit alone.”
It was by the grace of God, according to Linson, that he completed the run safely that day.
Linson returned to the States in 2005, but was deployed back to Iraq in 2006.
This time, being deployed with a different unit, Linson had hopes that his second stint would not feature the abuse of his first; however, his hopes were in vain.
According to Linson, the second time around was even worse than the first.
The year before he left the Army, Linson began to consider writing about his experience. Just an idea at the time, he began writing a few months after being medically discharged.
“I kept hearing about soldiers killing themselves [due to] being harassed,” Linson said. “When I heard a parent on national television wanting answers to their son’s death after they found out that [he] was being hazed or singled out, I knew I had to stand up and let the world know what is really going on.”
Linson’s memoir serves to broadcast the message that homosexual men and women are treated unfairly within the military system despite what is being reported.
“Too many times … I cried out for help in the military and nothing was done for me,” he said. “Still today, there are some who… experience what I have been through [without the DADT policy].”
The road to publishing his memoir was a long one Linson said.
After finding an editor to help “fix” his story, Linson went through a company called “Lightning Source” to self-publish the book.
The process was completed in 2012, and now The Untold Truth Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell can be found on shelves at Barnes & Nobles, Books-A-Million and Hastings.
“Also, my book is available online at every retailer including iTunes,” Linson said.
As for the reactions of his family and friends to Linson’s memoir, many were shocked as well as apologetic and sympathetic.
Most had no idea that he had been through such an experience.
“…all in all, they were very happy that I wrote about my experience in the military, and they hope others will come out into the light and tell the world what has happened to them as well,” he said.
Though it has been two years since the book first went on sale, Linson hopes to reach readers for many years to come.
“I believe that there will be some who will support me and there will be those who will not,” Linson said. “…issues that deal with people’s lives, and how they have to live after what has happened to them, has to be addressed no matter what is said or not said. It only takes one person to step up to the plate, and that person is me.”
A book promotion for The Untold Story Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday, April 24 in the Randolph C. Watson Library.