Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery Monument to LGBT Veterans Dedication Date – May 25, 2015 Memorial Day by James Darby
On Monday, May 25, 2015 the Chicago chapter of AVER dedicated a monument to lgbt veterans at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, the largest cemetery in the U.S. in the VA cemetery system. This is the first monument in a National VA cemetery dedicated solely to lgbt veterans by lgbt veterans. It rained heavily in the morning but by noon it cleared up and turned out to be an absolutely beautiful day. More than 100 guests, friends and visitors started streaming into the Valley of Monuments area guided by 35 flag carrying members of Organized Chaos, a Chicago based Women’s Motorcycle Club. A half dozen TV stations had already set up their equipment before everyone got there. ALNC is located 50 miles southwest of Chicago, so AVER Chicago chartered a free bus. Once the bus arrived President Reinhart started the ceremony. Eight members of AV ER posted the colors, the Pledge of Allegiance was done by everyone and the National Anthem was sung by the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus. The Invocation was given by three members of the clergy – Father Chris Meyers, a Catholic Priest, Reverend Wayne Bradley, a Protestant Minister and Cindy Enger, a Jewish Rabbi. All three spoke so eloquently that we could see tears flowing from many of those present. It was an extremely emotional experience for everyone.
President Lee Reinhart welcomed everyone and thanked them for coming out and participating in this historic event. He spoke about the long four year struggle that Chicago AVER endured to get to this point,
VP/Secretary Jim Darby spoke about the 23 year history of AVER mentioning the many battles that gay veterans have won and lost to get to this point in time. He also said that when members initially brought up the idea of the monument four years ago he asked for a volunteer to take over the project. Stanley Jenczyk volunteered.
Board member Stanley Jenczyk took to the podium to a wild round of applause. Stanley spoke briefly about the travails of working for four years with four different Directors to finally reach an agreement last fall with Director Sean Baumgartner. He said her was pleased that after such a long time we have finally reached our goal.
Lee Reinhart then introduced Sean Baumgartner, Director of ALNC. Mr. Baumgartner thanked everyone, and especially Stan, for having the tenacity to follow through on this project.
Several dignitaries were present and were invited to speak: Congressman Quigley was unable to attend. But his Aide, Jonathan Pizer was there. He said the Congressman had entered a statement in the Congressional Record with the information about Stanley and the monument.. Representative Robin Kelly from Illinois 2nd District spoke. “This stunning monument stands as a tribute to your patriotism and heroism. And, it stands as a tribute to your progress toward attaining America’s promise of equality, justice and freedom for all.”
Congressman Bill Foster from the 11th District also spoke. “I served in the office of Congressman Patrick Murphy as he led the charge in Congress to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – the very policy responsible for so many injustices. So, I’m even more proud today, that now proud LGBT men and women can serve today without having to hide their identity.”
At this time the Monument was unveiled followed by a huge applause and the Chicago Gay Mens Chorus sang America, the Beautiful. A floral bouquet was placed at the base of the monument. All three clergy participated in a Benediction. A Moment of Silence was observed as Melissa Terrell and Susan Jones performed Echo TAPS. The entire program was recorded by Tracy Baim from Windy City Times and can be viewed at http://www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/LGBT-Veterans-Monument-dedicated/51562.html Thanks to the incredible generosity of members, friends and anonymous donors we have reached our goal of $19,500.00 and the monument was paid off by May. We are all so grateful for everyone’s support. At this time we are planning a Veterans and & Supporters event to thank everyone who helped us.