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American Veteran: In the era of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' military service meant living a double life

 Brandon D. Anderson, veteran of the U.S. Army.
Ben Bloodwell
Brandon D. Anderson, veteran of the U.S. Army.

To commemorate Veterans Day, the American Homefront Project collaborated with the PBS documentary series American Veteranand the companion podcast, American Veteran: Unforgettable Stories, to profile men and women who have served in the U.S military.

Brandon Anderson’s grandparents signed the paperwork to allow him to join the military at age 17. He was looking for stability and a sense of community after a tough childhood of abandonment, homelessness, and legal troubles. He thrived in the structure and predictability of Army life.

“It was the thing that I cared most about,” said Anderson. “Being part of a family, being close to people, sharing in experiences, even though they were not the best of conditions, and having a place to call home.”

But serving the mid 2000s, in the era of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell when being openly gay could result in dishonorable discharge, he had to hide his relationship with the man he’d loved for more than a decade.

When he got the call that his partner had been shot by police, he couldn’t hide that relationship any longer. Anderson’s attitude toward the military was fundamentally altered when the institution he’d come to rely on rejected him at the point in his life when he most needed support.

Brandon Anderson was recorded by Insignia Films for GBH Boston. For more on American Veteran, visit

This excerpt was produced by the American Homefront Project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans. Funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2022 North Carolina Public Radio – WUNC

Elizabeth Friend grew up in North Carolina listening to public radio in the backseat of the family station wagon. She has been reporting and producing at WUNC since 2016, covering everything from Army history to armadillos. She's also the co-founder of the beloved summer event series Audio Under The Stars. In her spare time she enjoys exploring the outside world with her family, dabbling in esoteric crafts, and cheese.
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