Thursday, February 13, 2003 5:34 PM
By Sharon Gittleman
FERNDALE - A lesbian couple now active in the peace movement share an unlikely background for their new calling: Soulforce leaders Erin and Jennifer Adriel are both 20-year veterans of the U. S. Navy.
Jennifer Adriel enlisted in the service when she was 19 years old and ended her career in 1996, as the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Naval Commanding Officer in London.
Erin Adriel retired as a lieutenant after working as an air traffic controller on the aircraft carriers USS Forrestal and the USS Lexington.
"About two years before I retired, I came to an internal realization that the military wasn't where I needed to be anymore," Jennifer said.
"I started to develop a different theological understanding about what is a 'just war.' I just didn't feel that I could be a part of that machine anymore. A lot of it had to do with my sexuality."
But her change of heart and mind didn't happen overnight.
"I was tired about the good old boys and hiding my sexuality - that got the ball rolling," she said. "Then I started looking within."
Jennifer is currently studying to be a justice minister with the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), and has plans to continue her peace activism and her work for social justice when she graduates.
She met Erin in 1985.
"You can't be out at all in the Navy, but we were a couple," Erin said. "We were stationed sometimes thousands of miles apart. It's not an easy existence for a couple. Husbands and wives can have spousal duty together, but two lesbians can't."
Looking back, Erin points to several factors that led her to make such a radical change in her life.
"Being gay and being in the military was part of it. As I was doing religious work and self-discovery through MCC, I thought about my place in the world for the first time. I asked myself what is my contribution to the big picture?" she said. "I didn't want it to be a destructive contribution in any way. I wanted it to be creative and peace-filled. I started really understanding that everyone is connected to each other in some way. That's not just me and my neighbor, it's also me and someone in Iraq."
Today, Erin works as a part-time sign language interpreter and is heavily involved in organizations that work for peace and justice, including Soulforce and the Faith Action Network.
Although they oppose the possible war with Iraq, the Adriels have stayed in touch with many friends still in the military.
"I haven't had anyone tell me they think they are doing the wrong thing," Erin said. "They have to put themselves in a mindset to do things they have to do. There is plenty of worry and fear. Mostly they are concerned with what their mission is now and what it might be."
"I dearly loved the people I served with and I respect them. If we go to war tomorrow, every ounce of me will be with them; my heart will be with them. But my heart and mind is no longer in that combat thought-process anymore."