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Gay Vets Remember Fallen Comrades


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Gay Vets Remember Fallen Comrades

by Mark Worrall 365Gay.com San Francisco Bureau

Posted: November 11, 2005 12:01 am ET

(San Francisco, California) LGBT veterans across the country take time to remember fallen comrades today, many of whom died in silence, as fearful of disclosing their sexuality to the military as they were of the enemy.

The exact number of gays who died in the service of their country will never be known, but through diaries and other historical documents we know that gays and lesbians were serving in the military as far back as the American Revolution.

The Urban Institute estimates that today there are more than 1 million lesbian and gay veterans in the United States.

Some of those LGBT vets will march today to the the U.S.S. Potomac which is moored at Oakland for a special Veterans Day memorial service and to call attention to "don't ask, don't tell" the policy that bars gays from serving openly.

LGBT members of all branches of the military, led by a color guard from the Alexander Hamilton Post, will march to the ship.

Following a moment of silence the vets will hear from speakers that will include California Assemblymember Mark Leno and Sharra Greer, Director of Law and Policy, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

The service will conclude with the Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits Drum Circle.

The memorial takes place in conjunction with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's Annual Creating Change Conference and is sponsored by Equality California.

Across the country, in Georgia, a billboard will be unveiled paying tribute to LGBT veterans. The billboard is the second phase of the “We Are Your Neighbors” campaign by Georgia Equality.

Jointly sponsored by the Georgia Chapter of the American Veterans for Equal Rights the billboard is located on Victory Drive, less than a half mile from the entrance of Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia.

The billboard includes a picture of Andrew Nichols formerly of Georgia, an honorably discharged member of the United States Army who achieved the rank of Sergeant. The caption on the billboard reads: “I fight for your freedom. And… I am gay.” Nichols is in uniform in the picture.

Also today the National Black Justice Coalition paid tribute to African American gays who served their country.

"Just as racial segregation denied our armed forces the talent and qualifications of the African American community, the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law also exacts a cost to our national security and military readiness," the organization said in a statement.

"And just as the arguments against military desegregation proved to be unfounded, so are the arguments against allowing lesbian and gay patriots the opportunity to serve openly. Indeed, those who seek to deny the LGBT community the opportunity to serve use many of the same justifications once used to deny African Americans that same opportunity. Discrimination should never find a home among our nation’s fighting forces."

Veterans Day comes as the number of co-sponsors of a bill to repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' reached 100.

The bill, introduced in March by Representative Marty Meehan (D-MA), is co-sponsored by Republican and Democratic lawmakers, including nine members of the House Armed Services Committee. (story) Representative Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) became the hundredth co-sponsor.

“There is historic, bipartisan progress being made in the fight to lift the ban,” said C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

A recent poll shows that 79% of Americans support allowing gays to serve openly.

According to the Pentagon, it has discharged more than 10,000 service members for being gay, including nearly 800 with skills deemed “mission critical” by the Department of Defense.

“My husband is a Vietnam combat veteran who probably served with gays while defending our freedom,” said Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), a co-sponsor of the legislation.

“In fact, one of the army nurses who cared for him after he was severely injured was a lesbian. Did her sexual orientation make her or the guys who served with Dexter less qualified? Of course not. This is an unjust policy that hurts our preparedness.”

Her husband, Dexter Lehtinen is a former acting U.S. Attorney. He received a Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam.

©365Gay.com 2005


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