Lieutenants, With Love


By Karl Johnson and Josh Seefried

Two air force officers went from secret identities to openly dating overnight with the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’

1st Lieutenant, U.S. Air Force
I go camping by myself once a year, but it was raining that weekend, so I cancelled my plans. My friend said he was heading out to a bar in Philly. Since Karl was new in the squadron, my friend brought him along. We hit it off right away. He has this way with his hair. The military has strict regulations on hair, but somehow he manages to do this faux hawk thing. We had this immediate connection, and I suggested that the next day we go to Atlantic City. We spent the rest of the weekend together.

He wasn’t involved in activism when we first met. But soon after, he started writing for Time. That was the strangest part to me: He started stepping into my world -- both of us living under pseudonyms. I didn’t like it, but it has made us stronger. I trusted and felt comfortable with him.

Our traveling is ridiculous, especially when you add on the traveling we had to do around the repeal of DADT. He’s a pilot, too, so he’s traveling to Afghanistan and being deployed for longer. There were times when he was gone a week or more, and we said, “We have to suck it up.” Sometimes, we’ll travel for an event or a speech -- a meeting in D.C., which is five hours of driving—and maybe we’ll get back at 1 a.m. and both of us have to be at work at 6 a.m. But we’d tell each other: “We have to get this done.”

The day of the repeal of DADT was extremely busy. It started in the morning, bright and early. The next day, right after the repeal, I had to suck it up and get to Vegas. I came back to Karl’s place and told him my stomach hurt. They don’t have E.R.s at base hospitals anymore, so we went to a public hospital. That was the first time I had to go to a hospital with someone I was dating. I couldn’t move; I couldn’t talk. I felt like I was dying. It was awful. What was awful, too, was that I had to go back to work and I thought, It’s going to look like I’m skipping work. Then I realized it was the first time my commander had to interact with my boyfriend. I didn’t have time to think about it. I remember being drugged up and Karl telling my commander he was my boyfriend. It was weird to hear that. That’s when DADT repeal became real for me.


Karl gave me this stuffed puppy when I was “dying” in the hospital. I didn’t have a pillow that felt right, so I would put the dog under my head. We call him Bandit; he’s this miniature husky. Now, when he goes to Afghanistan, he’ll take it with him, or I’ll keep it and sleep with him when he’s gone.

As told to Jerry Portwood