Ever since the scandal broke regarding racy videos made by USS Enterprise Captain Owen Honors, I’ve had a gut feeling, knowing something about the military, that the media reaction to this has been extremely overblown, that we weren’t dealing with a gay vs. straight issue at all, and that this was more of a case of the proverbial parent forgetting he’s not One Of The Kids and crossing the line of decorum separating how the captain should act, as opposed to how the “kids” should act.  This was discussed in depth on Truth Wins Out’s Facebook page the other day, and it was enlightening.  Now a gay man who was formerly a sailor under Honors’ command has come forward to defend him:

Former Petty Officer Eric Prenger is openly gay since leaving the Navy. He’s now leading an effort to organize other gay former Enterprise sailors to support Capt. Honors.

He says, “Myself, nor the other gay crew members that I knew of at the time, were ever offended by those videos.”

Prenger says depression set in because of long deployments in 2006 and 2007 aboard the Enterprise. He says Capt. Honors’ videos ventured to lift spirits.

“Obviously my initial reaction was a little bit of a shock to see a Commander, a person of such high rank doing the things he was doing,” Prenger says.

Things like mimicked masturbation, and implied nudity and more were included in the videos. However, Prenger says he saw the sketches as pure comedy, not a slight against gay sailors.

“To see them call him such names as anti-gay or gay basher or homophobe, for people to say that who didn’t even know him or weren’t even there to serve under him, it’s pretty frustrating,” Prenger says.

It’s easy to forget, for those of us who are civilians, that military culture often is very, very different from Life Out Here. It does seem that Honors did something wrong, but when you have a gay sailor saying, “settle down, guys, it’s not what you think,” I think we should listen.

UPDATE:  Joshua Green at The Atlantic has posted a letter from former Petty Officer Prenger, which includes the text of a letter he sent to the SLDN on this issue.  This, obviously, is not to go after the SLDN, who has done stellar work, but again, as I said, when a gay sailor is stepping up and offering a perspective that’s not being considered, it should be taken into consideration:


My name is Eric, I was a gay sailor that served aboard the USS ENTERPRISE during the ’06 and ’07 deployments. I’m not sure exactly what information you need other than that I was never once offended by Capt. Honors choice of words of brand of humor. I have been making contact with many of my fellow gay service members that served aboard that time as well, in hopes that we can get the word out there that Capt. Honors never created an anti-gay work environment and that these slanders of calling him a homophobe and gay-basher are unjust. I have a copied a letter that I recently sent to the Service-members Legal Defense Network.

This letter is in reference to the SLDN’s recent comments against Capt. Honors previously of the USS ENTERPRISE.

By making statements against him your organization has become a participant in the action that so many gay men and women face every day in the service, harsh and uninformed judgment.

In your hasty remarks against Capt. Honors, you forget those videos were for the eyes of USS ENTERPRISE sailors only. You are condemning a man on events that have happened over four years ago.

Every gay man or woman that has joined the military has done so knowing that they weren’t walking into an environment that would be appealing to their sense of delicacy. Sexual orientation aside, every man or woman joining the military does so with the knowledge that the only way to get through is with tough skin.

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network has done so much for the recent repeal of the much hated “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy it is truly a shame to see you take such a biased stance against Capt. Honors.

As a gay man that served onboard the USS ENTERPRISE during both the ’06 and ’07 deployments I was never once offended by Capt. Honors’ choice of humor.

I have begun to make contact with my fellow gay service members who were also on those deployments. We will band together to show our support for Capt. Honors.

I ask that you, at this time, retract your statements against Capt. Honors until the full investigation has been completed or you have attempted to discuss this issue and hear the thoughts of those who served him on the ’06 and ’07 deployments.

I can’t help to think about the GEICO commercial during all this. The one with the retired drill sergeant acting as a therapist. In all honesty, do Americans really want a military full of men and women who’s first reaction to a harsh word or off-colored joke to go running to mama crying? Do we really want those people as our defense against the ever growing terrorism threat and foreign nationals with a vendetta against America? It seems thats what the media and the higher ups that be wish… Before you know it they’ll be administering sensitivity training on the polite and politically correct way of killing the enemy.

If you have anymore questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. And thank you for taking the time to hear this perspective on an issue that should have never made it this far. The moment this hit the media, the military should have stepped in and handled it, and not allowed the media to blow it out of proportion.

Thank you for your time,
Eric Prenger