A lot of stories that are called Kafkaesque aren’t really. The story of Perry Watkins and his experience with the U.S. military is. Born in Joplin, Missouri, in 1948 and drafted in 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War, openly gay nineteen-year-old Perry had every reason to believe he’d never serve—not because he objected to serving his country, but because the U.S. military barred homosexuals. But the Army took him anyway. Then after fifteen years of exemplary service, they threw him out. The reason? Because he was gay.
Perry didn’t just walk away with his tail between his legs. With the help of the ACLU, he fought his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and after an eight-year battle won reinstatement—one of the first to do so.