'Don't ask, don't tell" disappeared with a whimper. On Sept. 20, 2011, the 17-year-old law that banned gays, lesbians and bisexuals from open military service finally went into the dust bin of history.

It is more remarkable that with all the bombast and debate on this issue, when all is said and done, it was hardly even the biggest headline of the day.

"Don't ask, don't tell" has been the law of the land since I joined Army ROTC at the University of Minnesota in 1997, through my years as an active-duty Army officer from 2000 to 2005, and now in my time as a reservist here in Minnesota.

I was deeply closeted when I first joined, and it was not until 2002, while in Korea, that I came to terms with my sexual orientation.

Slowly, I learned to live within the confines of this discriminatory law.

I realized that there was actually a rather large, underground group of gays and lesbians within the military; we developed friendships and relationships, went out to gay bars, even celebrated holidays together while far from our families.

However, the threat of being discharged -- or worse, facing criminal charges -- always hung over our heads.

I left active duty in 2005 to attend law school at the University of Minnesota, wanting to get far away from the military once it was apparent that the law would not change with the reelection of George W. Bush.

Things did start to change, though. Repeal became part of the national dialogue as Democrats retook Congress in 2006, and Barack Obama, as a presidential candidate, unequivocally promised that "Don't ask, don't tell" would end on his watch. The only question became: When?

I reaffiliated with the Army Reserves as a JAG attorney in Minnesota in 2008, after graduating law school. I missed the military -- the camaraderie, the challenges, the general sense of honor and duty.

With increasing talk of repeal, I would just have to bide my time. I found a unit that would be mobilizing for Afghanistan; I trained with the unit, even attending and passing the prestigious Army Parachutist School in Georgia, just weeks before mobilization. Then everything went on hold.

While in training at Fort McCoy, Wis., I was called to my supervisor's office to meet with my company commander. Apparently, someone in the unit had Googled me and had found some articles involving my activism on "Don't ask, don't tell" during law school, in which I had identified as a gay person.

Those in my chain of command seriously debated whether they should allow me to deploy with them or whether I should be separated from the military.

This was devastating; it drained me emotionally, because being in the military is more than a job or career choice -- it is a part of who I am. I did not want to lose this part of my life.

In the end, key members of my chain of command stuck up for me. I wish every gay and lesbian servicemember who has been kicked out over the years had the same support.

Last spring, I ended up giving several of the briefings to soldiers about repeal of "Don't ask, don't tell." In the end, military discipline prevailed, and I did not see great concern or disgust about this change.

We in the military are taught to follow orders, even if we don't like them. When a change like this comes from the top generals and is reinforced by first-line leaders, people will come into line.

While many still have reservations, the sense that I got from my unit is that this is just another change of many, but that the military will endure, and in fact will likely be stronger for it.

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Jesse D. Berglund, of St. Paul, is a captain and judge advocate attorney in the U.S. Army Reserves.