Pride Month Memories
by Denny Meyer
At the nexus of Memorial Day and the start of Pride month, I began again to think about and remember my own personal gay military heroes who inspired me and must never be forgotten as we celebrate our pride in our service and of who we are.
World War II
PFC Frank Kameny, USA 1925 – 2011
|Franklin Kameny, PhD, served in combat in Europe as a teenager in WWII. He earned a doctorate degree in astronomy at Harvard. In 1957 he was fired from a government job when he was found to be homosexual. He spent the next 50 years fighting for gay rights.|
Korean Era LTJG Harvey Milk, USN 1930 – 1978
|Harvey Milk served in the US Navy aboard a submarine and in San Diego during the Korean War Era. Later, in NYC he worked on Wall St. He was assassinated after having been the first openly gay elected official in San Francisco and CA, courageously leading the fight for our rights.|
Vietnam TechSgt Leonard Matlovich, USAF 1943 – 1988
|Leonard Matlovich served 12 sterling years in the Air Force, earning a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his courage and valor in Vietnam. He sacrificed his career for our freedom when he came out publicly in a letter to the Secretary of the Air Force in 1974. He was discharged, sued and eventually won. He died of AIDS in 1988. His gravestone at the Congressional Cemetery is inscribed, “A Gay Vietnam Veteran. When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men, and a discharge for loving one.”|
Afghanistan CPL Andrew Wilfahrt, USA 1980- 2011
|Andrew Wilfahrt sacrificed his freedom, and ultimately his life, in order to give meaning and purpose to his life as a gay American. He never hid who he was, not from his family, not from his fellow troops. Killed while on foot patrol outside Kandahar, he is the first ‘known’ gay casualty of Operation Enduring Freedom.|
There are so many others, known and unknown, for us to remember in this Pride Month as we celebrate the freedom we have gained and dedicate ourselves to demanding full equality.
My first military hero wasn’t gay. He was my personal hero long before I’d ever heard of those mentioned above. His famous words inspired me to volunteer to serve for a decade, despite being gay: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Those words still inspire me today.
USN LT John F Kenndy, WWII As Commander of PT 109 in the South Pacific, fought the pain of a back injury and exhaustion to assure the rescue of his marooned crew. 35th President of the United States of America.
-Denny Meyer, fmr SFC USAR
The American Veterans for Equal Rights monument located in the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Chicago has been desecrated. Clearly there are Americans who think it is admirable to dishonor the service and sacrifice of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender men and women who have served and sacrificed to defend our nation’s freedom. Hate is not a virtue. Vandalism is not a courageous act. Violence against anyone is inexcusable. And the blatant and direct labeling of any person or group of people as “not even human” is the symptom of a divisive disease that eats away at the foundations of this great nation and makes us deeply vulnerable to the attacks of those who wish to destroy our democratic way of life and our efforts to expand the values of freedom to oppressed people worldwide. This must stop. America’s enemies contribute to and take great joy in our attacks on each other. If there is any group of patriots over which the American people can come together it is those individuals who volunteer to defend our freedom in the United States Armed Forces. An attack on any veteran must be seen as an attack on the things which we value most: service, honor, duty. Shame on these cowards. You are completely unworthy of the sacrifices made to defend your right to free speech. You desecrate our nation;s sacred honor.
Danny Ingram, National President Emeritus
American Veterans for Equal Rights
Chief Jim Donovan, former National President of American Veterans for Equal Rights, has died at the age of 74. Chief Donovan served longer on AVER’s national board than almost any other officer. Chief retired from the United States Navy with over 20 years of service. His legacy is the right of LGBT patriots to serve in the United States Armed Forces, a freedom for which he fought for many years. Fair winds and following seas Chief Donovan. We love you.
To View his Obituary and leave a message to his family and Partner of over 40 years David you can click here: James Patrick Donovan
November 20, 2016
Fellow Veterans, Service Members, Families and Allies,
Our nation has experienced a contentious and divisive election. American Veterans for Equal Rights shares your concern that the rights we fought for and won must now be defended.
AVER fought for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell which ended the nearly century old ban against open Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual service. LGBT Americans gained national marriage equality, a freedom only dreamed of a decade ago. Our United States military opened combat positions to women, and in only the past month we saw the ban against Transgender service lifted.
AVER shares your concern that these victories are in jeopardy under a new administration hostile to our community. Those who have endured the investigations and disgrace of being discharged from our careers, who have survived the tragedy of AIDS, who have endured the denial of our relationships and the dishonoring of our families and our service, share your fears. We share a common resolve that, WE ARE NOT GOING BACK.
Last week AVER reached out to the Trump Administration to offer our services as the nation’s LGBT Veterans Service Organization. Like many of you, we are deeply wary of this change, but we must live, and where necessary, fight in this new world. We have a Constitutional obligation to respect the office of President and a moral obligation to ensure the holder of that office is the leader of and for all Americans, not just a few.
We will continue our vigilance. We resolve never to rest as long as our rights are threatened. Our vigilance is not unfounded. Only last week the VA reversed its promise to provide gender correction surgery to heal our transgender veterans. Our fear is real. Our fight is not over. We have come this far together. Together, we will defend the liberties we hold so precious, and we will strive to secure them for future generations of LGBT Americans. AVER, locally and nationally, will remain a safe, respectful and supportive place for all of us.
Your service, your skills, and your support, are needed today in this critical mission. Stand with us, and defend our freedoms for our fellow veterans and heroes yet to come. The need is as great now as it has ever been. Thank you for your continued support and alliance.
On behalf of your National Board,
Veterans Proudly serving since Valley Forge!
Like many of us, I sat stunned in recent hours as the news of the death of two more black men in Louisiana and Minnesota was followed in quick order with the assassination of five Dallas Police officers and wounding of several more. I extend personally and on behalf of American Veterans for Equal Rights my regrets at this bloodshed across our country and our prayers for all those killed and wounded, their families and friends.
We cannot allow this thoughtless violent tit for tat to continue. We must find an equitable resolution to the treatment of our black citizens, we must expect and make possible fair policing of our neighborhoods even as many police forces work to do so. We must find a sensible way to judge who can and who cannot have deadly weapons, particularly those weapons of war.
Finally, Congress cannot continue to fiddle while the burning of Rome may be beginning. The senselessness of recent violence from many sources across our country is exceeded only by the blind in fighting of Senators and Representatives who represent our people continues on Capitol Hill. We can only hope that those citizens and representatives of the people find a middle ground and proceed to make our country safer for all our citizens. God Bless those who take that initiative.
Veterans Proudly serving since Valley Forge!
LTC, EN, U.S. Army (Retired)
American Veterans for Equal Rights