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September's Heroes
 

by Denny Meyer

New York
Just over one week after the ten year memorial of the terrorist assault on America, gay and lesbian American service members were able to serve openly in freedom for the first time in history.  At the time of the 911 attack, many young gay people patriotically sacrificed their freedom and volunteered to serve their country.  And in the decade that followed, many more matured to the age when they too could volunteer to be a part of something greater than themselves.

Their courage is an inspiration that has often been disparaged and forgotten amid the greater ongoing sacrifice of honorable young lives in service to our nation.  Because they had to serve in silence about who they were, so many of our lost brave brothers and sisters are unknown.  There are two “known” gay fatalities in combat in the past ten years of war: Major Alan Rogers in Iraq, and Corporal Andrew Wilfahrt in Afghanistan.  How many others are there who can no longer speak for themselves to say, “Remember me for who I was.”

If only they could have lived to see their day of freedom and recognition, for both pride in service, and Pride in who they are.  May our memory of them and their sacrifice never fade as we salute our flag.

Among the thousands who were killed on 911, there are also two well known gay fatalities, among others, both of whom bravely stepped forward to serve: Father Mychal Judge, a New York City Fire Department chaplain, who rushed into a burning tower to minister to first responders and himself perished with them; and Mark Bingham, a passenger on flight 93 who died assaulting the terrorists to prevent their plane from destroying our Capitol.  How many others are there, who perished that day, who can no longer speak for themselves to say, “Remember me for who I was.”  May our memory of them and their sacrifice never fade as we salute our flag.

We all have personal memories of the day of horror that we will never forget.  As I turn 65 this September, I remember my generation’s marker as the day that President Kennedy was killed.  I was in my early teens when he told us: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”  And by those words, many of us were inspired to serve; being gay didn’t stop us.  The past decade’s young generation’s patriotism was inspired by 911; and young gay and lesbian Americans did not hesitate to step forward.  May we salute the memory of all of our brothers and sisters sacrificed in the name of freedom, in this month of our Pride.

  2011 Gay Military Signal