Pride Month Memories

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