Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Dedication To Fallen Gay Soldiers

Kerry Eleveld, The Advocate: Hundreds of LGBT activists and allies gathered at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on a rainy Saturday afternoon at Arlington National Cemetery to watch Lt. Dan Choi, an Arabic linguist who was discharged from the Army for being gay, dedicate a wreath to gay and lesbian soldiers who have fallen in the line of duty.

“There’s so many soldiers that haven’t been able to be recognized for so long, so many service members that continue serving in silence,” Choi told The Advocate following the ceremony. Asked what was going through his mind during the solemn dedication, Choi added, “All of the messages that I’ve gotten from people saying that they don’t know how to go on while they’re still serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is for them.”

The event was considered an official military ceremony, but it was not the first time gay and lesbian veterans have been recognized at the site. Michael Bedwell, who helped assemble the application for the wreath laying, said gay vets groups hold a similar event every year on Memorial Day.

Nonetheless, Capt. Michael Rankin, a retired Navy officer who participated in the ceremony with Lt. Choi, called the event “incredibly moving.”

Rankin served for 32 years – all of them closeted. “I was gay the whole 32 years,” he said with a smile. “I reported to a Naval Academy in 1964, and to imagine then what this was all about today is just unbelievable. It’s very encouraging, because there were so many young people here who came out and said, we’re the next generation and we’re going to win this battle.” (More)

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