America: May 2010

2006-2010  Gay Military Signal

A Straight Veteran's Commentary

Time to ask and tell


N. Rudy Rickner

In a recent New York Times Op-Ed, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t change,” General McPeak suggests that repeal of the US military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy would be imprudent, especially during a time of war.

I will be the first to acknowledge that we are at war, and that everything we do should first aim to support the infantryman on the front lines. But General McPeak is wrong.  Things have changed.

First – Being around gays and lesbians isn’t a big deal anymore. A person’s sexual orientation doesn’t determine their professional ability - so why should I care who they date when they are off duty?

Actually, I do care - from a leadership point of view. I care because I was taught from day one of officer training to take care of my Marines, and that I could only take care of them if I knew them.  I was taught that I should know their parent’s names, their hometown…..even know their favorite color.  But how can I know them if I am prohibited from asking certain questions?  And how can I be fully aware of my unit’s capabilities if certain members of my unit are forbidden from keeping me fully informed?


Hat Reading,
one thing leads to another,
and a surprise handshake

The spry old vet, in his 80s, was wearing his dusty old WWII vet baseball cap as he calmly moved through the supermarket aisles pushing a shopping cart while his dear ill wife rested at home.  The cap had the usual assortment of little metal miniature replicas of campaign ribbons and medals, a few military icons, his combat infantry badge, and his final rank; the sort of thing any vet understands when 'hat reading' a fellow vet's cap.  If you know what you're looking at, you can 'read' the story of a vet's time in the service from the pins on his cap.  It's not exactly a secret code; there are some 26 million living vets in America.  At VA hospitals, in particular, it's a common experience to realize someone's looking at the top of your head, reading your hat, and perhaps puzzling over some of the more obscure icons.  So, as I stared at his hat for a few seconds more than a casual glance, he 'knew' I was a vet reading his hat.  He gave a friendly grin and nodded.  As he was a WWII vet, he got an automatic salute from me, and a "thank you for serving" greeting.

Unlike those who've endured just two or three years of service, senior NCOs tend to have their rank insignia on their hats along with the other pins.  His had a Sgt First Class insignia.


American Veterans For Equal Rights
20th Anniversary DC Event in June

Honors LGBT WWII Vets

by Danny Ingram, AVER President

This June, American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER) celebrates 20 years of working for LGBT equality in the US Armed Forces with Operation Golden Eagle, a series of events planned in conjunction with Capital Pride in Washington DC, the city where AVER was born in 1990.  AVER members from across America will gather in the nation's capital Jun. 11-13, 2010, to commemorate the founding of AVER, the oldest nation-wide LGBT Veterans Service Organization in the United States.  The focus of the celebration will be LGBT World War II veterans, those men and women of the 'greatest generation' who defeated the forces of tyranny in the largest conflict the world has ever known and returned home to the United States to found the modern Gay Rights movement.  The anniversary event has been named Operation Golden Eagle in honor of the 'golden years' of these first generation LGBT Americans, many of whom wore on their uniforms the famous golden eagle patch (nicknamed the 'ruptured duck') to distinguish their status as a returning WWII vet.


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