Must Speak for Those
who May Not Speak
Steve Loomis, LTC, EN, U.S. Army (Ret.)
President, Bataan Chapter - New Mexico,
American Veterans for Equal Rights
desert of New Mexico has seen the passage of tough
dedicated soldiers across a difficult and demanding
land many times. Apaches, Spanish Conquistadores,
Buffalo soldiers, atomic veterans and most recently
Navajo Code Talkers and survivors of the Bataan
Death March. Each served in their sometimes brutal
circumstances and many never returned home. They
took pride in their ability and service. Now it is
As a mix of
gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and Two Spirit,
we have served long, proudly and with the great
distinction. Still certain conservative forces seek to
keep us down and degrade our lives and contributions,
not because of what we are and how we have served, but
because of who they think we are. It hurts. It hurts
individual soldiers, it hurts families, it damages our
military readiness and embarrasses our great country.
I know this
from my own experiences and from the stories of my
fellow service members, gay and straight. We have
served in silence for too long. Now we must stand for
our rights and dignity in the final moments of the fight
for open service to our country.
It was again
reinforced for me how important our rights are during
Albuquerque's Pride Celebration this year. Pride
was nearing the end of a long beautiful day and we had
spoken to hundreds of vets and supporters. As we
spoke to vets, active duty and supporters of the repeal
of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, I noticed a young Native
American standing with several friends a few feet away.
A handsome young man, he respectfully waited for me to
finish. I thanked the supporter and turned to the
young man and asked, "Will you sign our petition to repeal
Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and explained it was going to our
congressional delegation. As he added his signature to
the petition, he said, "I didn't know there was a group
like this." "Are you a veteran," I asked. "Yes, sir.
U.S. Navy," he answered. "But it was tough." I could
tell he wanted to talk. I asked, "What tribe are you?"
I just didn't have many friends in the Navy. I felt
isolated, like I couldn't talk to anyone else. I didn't
really want to join because I am gay, but my family
wanted me to join and I couldn't tell them why. But,
the tradition is strong among Navajos, so I joined."
to beat Don't Ask, Don't Tell," I told him. I began to
introduce him to some of our Vietnam and Cold War Navy
vets. You should visit our meetings. We've got a lot
going on and yes, we have veterans from Iraq and
Afghanistan to the Korean War."
As he took
some of our literature, he answered, " I'd like to."
Then, grabbing my hand for a handshake, he said, "Thank
you." He reached and gave me a huge long bear hug.
"Thank you for being here." I can't say that I saw
tears in his eyes, but he probably saw some in mine.
This is why I
am committed to the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; so I
can stand up for those on active duty who can't speak
for themselves. This is why it so important for all of
us to continue the good fight. This is why we must win
this fight. This is why we will win this fight.
© 2010 Gay Military Signal