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 Sgt Denny's Rant


In memory of a member of

America's Greatest Generation

New York, July 9th, 2007, By Denny Meyer

One of my troopers died last week; he was 92 years old.  He was a World War II veteran who was drafted into the Army as a boy Private in 1941, and retired a lifetime later as a Major in 1974.  I attribute his longevity to the fact that he proudly celebrated everything that he was; he simply didn't worry.  He was an American soldier, Jewish, and gay.  Last year In the New York City Pride and Veterans' Day parades,  when I offered Willet Fields, aged 91 at the time, a sign saying "GAY WWII VET," he eagerly snatched it out of my hands, held it high, and led our contingent with it down Fifth Avenue as a million spectators cheered him on.  Policemen guarding the parade route left their posts to shake his hand; and thousands shouted, "Thank you for serving!"  Everyone was inspired.  He so very proudly celebrated who he was.  He was a sweet little teddy bear of a man with white hair and a barrel chest that everyone wanted to hug. 

During and after World War II, Willet Fields served  in the Philippines and in the Allied occupation of Germany.  He was just another soldier --- unless you happened to take a look at the faded ribbons on his old garrison cap that he proudly wore in our parades; and you would see a WWII medal, American Defense Ribbon, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Ribbon, American Campaign Ribbon, National Defense Ribbon, German Occupation Ribbon, The Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Philippines Liberation Ribbon with Bronze Star, and The Philippine Independence Ribbon. 

His relatives, who organized his funeral service, celebrated his life his way.  His coffin was draped in an American flag to honor his long service to his country.  The female Rabbi conducting the service was from his LGBT congregation.  The service was attended by many relatives who flew in from around the country, and by nearly 100 gay and lesbian friends of all ages from SAGE (Senior Action in a Gay Environment), his synagogue CBST (Congregation Beth Simchat Torah), those he'd worked with in the organization Sons of Israel, and his fellow LGBT Vets -members of AVER (American Veterans For Equal Rights New York).  A memorial was held in his honor at the LGBT Community Center in NYC, and another was later held across the country in Los Angeles.  For Willet Fields, the inevitable was a triumph rather than a tragedy because his life as a soldier, beloved and caring cousin, fundraiser, and gay rights activist was celebrated in all its fullness.

He so very much wanted to march with us again this coming November in the Veterans' Day Parade; you can be sure he'll be with us.  I miss him already.

A story written one year ago about about Willit Fields is at: http://gaymilitarysignal.com/Fields060704.html

The author of this article, Denny Meyer, is the President of American Veterans For Equal Rights New York