Maj. Margaret Witt and Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, two prominent “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal advocates, have celebrated their retirement from the military Sunday during a ceremony at the the U.S. Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Va.
Witt fought her discharge under DADT in court and won a key legal precedent that other gay service members have relied on in their own lawsuits.
Fehrenbach successfully blocked his impending separation under the policy.
Both Became Rachel Maddow Show regulars through their high profile battles against the policy.
The retirement ceremony of Maj. Margaret Witt and Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach was officiated by gay rights activist icon, Col. Margarethe “Grethe” Cammermeyer, who was discharged from the military, sued, and later won her reinstatement in the National Guard. Cammermeyer retired in 1997 with full benefits and privileges.
“There are so many ways that she has sacrificed for that greater good that we all in 18 days will come to treasure that much more, because we will know that those 65,000 gays and lesbians serving in the military will no longer have to live with that burden of, ‘I’m wondering if someone is going to out or discharge me,’” Cammermeyer said of Witt, a flight nurse who was also officially awarded the Air Medal at the ceremony (she had been simply mailed the prestigious honor following her discharge). “I commend you for all the work that you did, Margie, and appreciate so much that you were willing to take a stand.”
Cammermeyer then turned to Witt’s retiring colleague and quipped to audience laughter, “Lt. Col. Fehrenbach is of a different ilk.”
“His willingness to take on the Air Force,” she continued of the fighter pilot, “even though he was still in the military and had to deal with the day-to-day repercussions of that — it’s a very lonely, unsettling journey. And so he has worn the uniform as the officer and pilot and human being that he is, and said ‘Take me on.’”
The ceremonial retirement orders for Witt and Fehrenbach came less than three weeks from the official end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” on Sept. 20.