RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Time now for StoryCorps, the project recording the stories of everyday Americans. This weekend, gay pride celebrations are in full swing in several cities, and pride festivals can, for the first time, commemorate the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," the law that banned gays from serving openly in the military. Today we hear from veteran Denny Meyer. He served in the Navy during Vietnam, and at StoryCorp, he remembered what it was like to be gay and a sailor in the late 1960s.
DENNY MEYER: In those days, we served in silence. And not one day passed when you didn't worry that you were going to be found out. When men are at sea, they horse around. And so, they'd wrestle on the floor with 30 guys shouting. But when anybody wanted to do that with me, I would grab their neck and bounce their head against the bulkheads - I don't go for that. And so unintentionally, I got a reputation as the straightest guy around. You know, Meyer won't do that even for a joke, you know.
And there was a witch hunt for homosexuals which happened periodically, and the officers called me in. And they said, Meyer, you're the only one we can be sure of.
MEYER: Will you help us find these people, and I said, I don't know nothing about that. So you lead a lonely life, you know. You're an island all by yourself. Sometime later I was fleet headquarters and two men in suits called me in by surprise. And they said, Meyer, we're doing a routine investigation for your clearance, and in the course of that investigation, we found out that you are a - and between that word and the next, I died.
I went, now the hell begins. And then the guy finished his sentence and said, are a user of marijuana, and I wanted to jump up down and laugh.
MEYER: It was just so terrifying that 40 years later, I remember that moment like it was yesterday.
MONTAGNE: That's Denny Meyer at StoryCorps in New York City. His interview will be archived along with all StoryCorps interviews at the Library of Congress. The StoryCorps Podcast is at npr.org.