Anthony Loverde joined the United States Air Force on February 13, 2001, making a six-year commitment and hoping to use his G.I. Bill benefits to obtain a post-graduate degree eventually. After completing basic training, he received specialized training in electronics and further training in calibrations, after which he qualified at the journeyman level as a PMEL – Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory – technician. A PMEL technician calibrates the accuracy, reliability, and traceability of all types of equipment, including precision warfare equipment.
After completing training in December 2001, Loverde was stationed at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany. While at Ramstein, Loverde’s flight *was responsible for calibrating and ensuring the accuracy and reliability of “various equipment used throughout the Air Force.” Loverde was stationed at Ramstein for approximately three years.
After completing his tour at Ramstein Air Base, Loverde was stationed at Edwards Air Force Base in California for approximately two years. While stationed at Edwards, Loverde was deployed to the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar for four months, where he supported Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, as well as missions taking place in the Horn of Africa.
During his stint in the Air Force, Loverde received frequent promotions; three and one-half years after enlistment, for example, he was promoted to staff sergeant, although the usual length of time to reach that rank is six years. After serving his initial enlistment commitment, he reenlisted and received further training to qualify as a loadmaster. In that capacity, he flew sixty-one combat missions in Iraq, where he received two Air Medals.
Loverde testified he was raised in a religious family and his church taught that homosexuality was a sin; he had not realized he was gay at the time he joined the military at age eighteen. After he became aware of his sexual orientation, he researched the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Act and found the Servicemembers’ Legal Defense Network website. He understood that there were three grounds for discharge under the Act – marriage, conduct, and statements. He resolved to comply with the Act and remain in the Air Force.
The Air Force’s core values are “Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do.” Loverde testified that the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Act effectively made it impossible to honor the “Integrity First” value of the credo, because on occasion, he felt forced to lie rather than violate the Act: Once, when with other servicemembers in a bar off base in Germany, he refused the sexual advances of a German civilian woman, and his colleagues asked him if he was gay; on another occasion, a subordinate airman asked Loverde about his sexual orientation.
During the time he served as a loadmaster at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany, he also testified that his flight chief often used offensive epithets to refer to gays, as well as racist and sexist slurs Although Loverde was disturbed by this, he felt he had no recourse and could not report it lest he draw attention to his sexual orientation. Therefore, during the year he served under this officer, he never made any formal or informal complaint about it.
Loverde also testified that during his combat deployments and during his assignments to bases in Germany and California, he faced the difficulty of having to hide his personal life from his colleagues and avoiding conversations with them about everyday life over meals, for example. He became so skilled at avoiding his fellow airmen that they nicknamed him “vapor” in recognition of his ability to vanish when off duty.
In April 2008, Loverde decided he was no longer willing to conceal his sexual orientation. At that time, he was deployed to the Ali Al Saleem Air Base in Kuwait, and he delayed formally telling his commanding officer of his decision until his return to Germany, lest his entire flight unit’s mission be disrupted and their return from deployment delayed. When he returned to Germany from his deployment, Loverde wrote to his first sergeant, stating Loverde wanted to speak to his commanding officer about continuing to serve under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Act, and that while he wanted to continue serving in the Air Force, he could not do so under that law.
Loverde’s superiors recommended the Air Force retain him and commended him for being “nothing less than an outstanding [non- commissioned officer]” and “a strong asset” to the Air Force. They praised him for demonstrating an “exceptional work ethic” and “the highest level of military bearing, honest, and trustworthiness.” One wrote: “If I ever had the opportunity to build my ‘dream team’ for work, I would take an entire crew of SSgt. Loverde over most other workers. . . .”
Nevertheless, in July 2008 the Air Force gave Loverde an honorable discharge, citing the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Act. Loverde testified he wouldjoin the Air Force again “without a doubt” if the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Act were repealed. The Court found Loverde a candid and credible witness.
*A “flight” is the Air Force term for a group of airmen, comparable to a “unit” in the Army.