Guest Post by: Stephan Lherisson
On Friday, November 11, LGBT veterans and supporters came together for the Center’s LGBT Veteran’s Day Reception: A Celebration of Service, honoring the first Veteran’s Day since the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Current and former soldiers of the United States armed forces from as far back as World War II, to as present as Afghanistan were available for an event to honor their sacrifices to the country as well as their ability to now serve openly and proudly as lesbian, gay, or bisexual.
Alfred Eriksson, currently an antique prints and maps dealer, was one of those who served in the Second World War. Drafted in 1943 he served till 1946. He was a Sergeant in Army intelligence studying the Japanese army. Of the repeal he said,” It’s wonderful.”
“During the actual war they didn’t pay attention to sexual orientation,” he said when asked about attitudes toward sexuality in the army during that time. “Everyone was very discreet,” he added.
Ed Loecher who served as a Staff Sergeant in Korea from 1951-1955 echoed that sentiment. “I don’t think anyone cared too much. When you’re out in the field people don’t care as much.”
Morgan Cooley, an E5 Sergeant in the U.S. Army for six years in Afghanistan expressed her excitement over being able to attend multiple Veteran’s Day events openly now. She expressed the pressure she felt as a woman, especially in the military environment which can be as close as a family.
The mastermind behind the event was Adrian Ogle, the Cultural Programs Coordinator. Why did he decide to make this his first event at the center? “Because following the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal I came to the conclusion I was disconnected from the service.”
The event was marked by a performance from the Gay Men’s Chorus as well as speeches from speakers Zeke Stokes from the Service Members Legal Defense Network, Brenda “Sue” Fulton from Knights Out, Denny Meyer from American Veterans for Equal Rights and the Transgender American Veterans Association, Joshua Seefried from OutServe, and Anu Bhagwati from the Service Women’s Action Network.
For all of its celebration the occasions was also used to remember the battles won but also the battles to come as event goers mentioned the continued plight of transgender soldiers who still cannot serve openly in the military.