Hello Sailor: Navy Turns to Drag Queens in Attempt to Boost Recruitment Numbers

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I would have entered the Navy if I had not joined the United States Air Force instead. Traveling the world on a ship and wearing their vast array of very cool uniforms seemed appealing to a much younger version of your favorite political commentator. Alas, I chose the Air Force life, but I still managed to forge bonds with and work closely with my brothers and sisters in the Navy. 

We had our silly branch rivalries of course, though all in good spirit. My sailor friends were often ragged for having their names embroidered on the back of their pants, and of course, The Village People certainly didn’t help matters. However, now it appears the Navy has embraced some of the stereotypes we all used to tease them about to recruit more sailors.

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In the Navy…

Active duty sailor Joshua Kelley just finished a pilot “digital ambassador” program with the Navy. 

His job? To promote and elevate his experience in the Navy as a sailor by day, and drag queen by night on social media to boost Generation Z’s interest in the Navy. Going by his stage name “Harpy Daniels,” Yeoman 2nd Class Kelley has garnered more than one million followers on TikTok.

Using his platform, Harpy Daniels shows that you can serve your country no matter who or what you identify as. Yeoman Kelley didn’t just start performing in drag for this Navy Digital Ambassador program despite whatever thoughts are going through your head.

Harpy Daniels has been performing “on deck” since 2018. For those unfamiliar with the terminology, “on deck” means on the ships he was deployed on. These performances were sanctioned lip-syncing competitions and morale-boosting initiatives for the sailors on board.

Now, Yeoman Kelley considers himself a “leader” and “advocate” for people who “were oppressed for years in the service.” Yeoman Kelley states, “I’m an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and being able to do drag is not just for me, but a tribute to many service members who were kicked out, harassed, bullied or worse for being openly gay during Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“It shows representation, and that is truly needed for a culture and organization that has shunned us for so long,” He added.

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Join the Navy! Pretty Please

When asked about Yeoman Kelley’s participation in the digital ambassador program, a Navy spokesperson explained that the Navy used the program to “explore the digital environment to reach a wide range of potential candidates.” Because that’s what is missing from our nautical lethality, an armada of naval vessels crewed by drag queens.

Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of terrorists and communists more than big hair, thick makeup, and sequins on a man. Republican Congressman Jim Banks commented that, “Biden DOD’s recruitment is as good as Bud Light’s marketing.”

Hard to argue there.

Every on-base enlisted club I ever went to was well stocked with Bud Light, so maybe the connection was inevitable. There’s been a growing argument from conservatives that the military has gone too “woke,” and diversity initiatives have weakened our military prowess on the world stage.

But Air Force Chief of Staff General C.Q. Brown argues that diversity initiatives are precisely what our military needs, “What I will tell you is when people join our military, they want to look around and see somebody who looks like them.” How things have changed since my days as a young Airman.

It used to be the mantra that it didn’t matter what you looked like, where you came from, or what your upbringing was like — a benefit of being in the military was that we were all united in our service to our country. 

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A Non-Issue?

I retired from the military a year and a half ago after serving over 20 years. I can tell you that the military, while not perfect, is leaps and bounds safer and easier to serve openly as a gay or lesbian than ever before.

Don’t take my word for it; take Yeoman Kelley’s, who told a reporter in 2018, “I’ve not once had a bad experience as a gay man in the military.” Kelley said in the same interview that being in the Navy is probably the easiest thing anybody could do, stating, “I have many LGBT friends here, and if you can stand at attention properly and speak with proper etiquette, that’s what it comes down to in the Navy.”

My old Navy friends might argue that being in the Navy requires much more than just standing at attention and using proper salutations, but I digress. A March National Independent Panel on Military Service and Readiness posed that diversity initiatives have risked “supplanting the U.S. military’s culture of warfighting with a new culture of DEI promotion and compliance.”

While I think pronoun training, drag shows, social media influencers, and diversity training don’t help our position as a former military superpower – the report still misses the real issue with military recruitment.

A Societal Rot

All branches of the armed forces struggled and, in some cases, missed their recruitment goals last fiscal year, and the future doesn’t look much better. For example, the Navy is projected to fall about 16% or upwards of 6,000 recruits short of their goal this fiscal year.

The Navy explains they are navigating “the most challenging recruiting environment it has faced since the start of the all-volunteer force.” Why do so few young Americans want to raise their right hand and serve their nation?

Some argue the below are the reasons for dismal recruitment:

  • booming economy
  • competitive private sector
  • woke initiatives
  • failure in Afghanistan
  • negative press

All of the above indeed play a factor. However, I argue that the core problem runs deeper than all.

We live in a country where it is considered “uncool” and downright inappropriate to love your country and fellow countrymen. We allow Big Media, Big Education, and the political swamp to brainwash us into believing America isn’t great, that our ideals are evil, and that if someone disagrees with us, they are also evil.

As General Brown mentioned, we allow bureaucrats to tell us that to feel good about our existence; we must be surrounded by people who look and think just like us. But the truth is, if we want to solve our military recruitment issue, we don’t need Harpy Daniels, we need patriotism. 

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USAF Retired, Bronze Star recipient, outspoken veteran advocate. Hot mess mom to two monsters and wife to equal parts... More about Kathleen J. Anderson

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