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I've been flying the c-17 to and from airfields in Afghanistan and Iraq. In August I had the honor of helping return the bodies of my comrades who died after the Taliban shot down their CH-47 Chinook. The lump in my throat that I got walking down from the flight deck to see the jet's cargo bay filled with flag-draped coffins will stay with me forever. I don't expect things to change much after the repeal. The mission will go on, but I will no longer have to hide who I am. Those of us affected by the new rule will no longer have to carry the burdens of living a double life. I'm sure many of my co-workers assume I'm a bit of a shut-in because I never go out. My weekend plans usually involve events important enough to turn down their invitations, but boring enough to keep them from tagging along. None of them have met my boyfriend, and the stories I tell about us during a long ocean crossing are filled with cover-ups about "my buddy Josh." His squadron--yes, he too is in the Air Force--knows me as his roommate, and that lie has allowed me to attend military functions like his promotion party and a farewell gathering for his previous commander. Too many service personnel have spent too much time concocting and maintaining lies for the sake of a national cover story. I happily pledge never to do that again.
A new day is dawning for America's military, and despite all the commotion, it's really no big deal. I'm proud to say I will continue to serve with the same dignity, might and vigor I always have. Being an officer in the Air Force is an honor. Wearing the uniform is a privilege. Being a gay man is a mere footnote in the story of the strong leader our military has forged out of me.
Johnson has been writing as Officer X on Time.com's Battleland blog since May