Charles “Chuck” Schoen, one of the six founding members of American Veterans for Equal Rights, passed away on February 27th, 2014, in Desert Hot Springs, California, at the age of 88. Chuck was a Life Member of AVER and is survived by his fellow US Navy veteran and partner of 48 years, Jack Harris, also a Life Member of AVER. Chuck Schoen served in the United States Navy during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
Chuck enlisted in the US Navy in, July, 1942, at the age of 17. Chuck worked his way up from enlisted to Lieutenant JG, serving 19 years as a nuclear specialist, holding a top secret clearance and travelling three times to the Mediterranean aboard aircraft carriers. Just short of his retirement Lt. Charles Schoen, a veteran of three wars, was Less-Than-Honorably discharged from the Navy for being gay. He lost his retirement and all benefits. Some years later, working with a private attorney, Chuck was able to upgrade his discharge to Honorable, but he never received the full retirement he rightfully earned as just reward for his service to the Navy and our nation.
In 1987 Chuck worked to form Veterans C.A.R.E. (Council for American Rights and Equality), one of several LGBT veterans groups organizing to fight the ban. The group participated in the Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in October, 1987. In 1990 Chuck met with five other organizations in Minneapolis to form GLBVA (Gay Lesbian Bisexual Veterans of America), later AVER. That same year he travelled to Washington, D.C. to testify on the issue of gays in the military before the United States House Subcommittee on Oversight and Veterans Affairs.
Chuck Schoen worked his entire life to end discrimination against LGBT Americans in the United States Armed Forces, and he lived long enough to see the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in 2011. Chuck is remembered as one of the quiet giants of our community, a man whose determined efforts to end injustice against LGBT people helped change our nation and help America move forward in our destiny to become the largest, most diverse society in the history of the world to embrace equal rights, equal responsibilities, and equal respect for every citizen. For this, and for his remarkable life and service to our country, the members of AVER express our heartfelt gratitude for a life well lived.
Lieutenant Chuck Schoen, shipmate, you stand relieved. We have the watch.
Chuck, in his own words:
AVER would like to express our deepest sympathy to our fellow veteran Jack Harris in the loss of his partner. Chuck has been cremated, and his ashes will be mixed with those of Jack following his death, both to be interred together at sea.
Danny Ingram, Immediate Past President
American Veterans for Equal Rights