Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Grounded Idaho Pilot Flying High Since DADT Repeal

Posted By on Tue, Dec 28, 2010 at 12:38 PM

Born on Wright-Patterson A.F.B. in Ohio where his father was a navigator and his mother a nurse, Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach was essentially born to serve.

After a career in the Air Force as a combat pilot, Fehrenbach has been grounded and sitting behind a desk for the last two and a half years since he was outed as gay by a civilian. In Sept. 2008, under Don't Ask Don't Tell, his commander recommended him for separation from the U.S. Air Force.

On Dec. 22, President Obama signed the repeal of DADT into law. Fehrenbach, who's been stationed at Mountain Home A.F.B. since 2007, talked to Citydesk about that historic change.

The day of the Senate vote, Fehrenbach was in the Senate chamber.

“I was counting on my fingers as we went,” said Fehrenbach. Suspecting 61 votes and perhaps some surprises, he knew it was in the bag when Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) voted yes.

“I knew then it would defiinitely pass the 60 mark, and I knew it was over.” The final vote was 65 to 31.

Fehrenbach described the last several weeks as an “intense emotional roller coaster.”

“They kept citing process, procedure, and parliamentary and political gamesmanship. I was watching saying, ‘I’m not a process, I’m not a procedure, I’m a person and they are playing with my life. Then when I heard Sen. [John] McCain Saturday on the Senate floor say this is part of some liberal agenda, again I got frustrated. I’m not an agenda.

“This isn’t a gay rights agenda for me, this is not a liberal agenda, this is my life. I did not do this to further some kind of agenda, I did this because it was the right thing to do and at the end of the day it affects people's lives.”

Even after the vote Fehrenbach said it didn’t feel real.

“The very end of it was the most poetic part for me, when he put his hand on the bill and said, ‘This is done.’ It was almost as if he were answering his promise to me.”

Fehrenbach learned last summer that the Air Force was moving forward with his possible discharge under DADT and his attorneys filed an injunction to stop it. His case has been in limbo ever since and for now, his fate remains uncertain.

"They could go to trial but that could take 18 to 24 months and guess what? I’m eligible for retirement in Sept. 2011.”

Asked if he would reconsider retirement now that DADT has been repealed, “I am ready to move on,” said Fehrenbach. “This has been a rough two and a half years. I am actually ready to live the life I wasn’t able to have for 18 years.

“I sacrificed a lot of personal relationships, not just intimate relationships but friendships. Because of this law, I couldn’t even have close friends that were gay.”

fehrenbach-offical.jpg

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