Missouri State Representative
Missouri State Representative
Zachary Wyatt is a very self confident young Air
Force veteran and elected official who, at age 27,
has accomplished more than many could imagine
achieving in a lifetime; and its very clear that
he's just getting started. His plans include
getting advanced degrees in marine biology and
environmental law and going forward with, perhaps, a
career in advocating renewable energy governmental
policies and promoting gay rights within the
Republican Party. Oh, to be 27 again!
He graduated from high school
in 2003, served seven years in the Air Force as a
Cryptologic Linguist specializing in Russian and
Chechen, and then ran for office
and won against a two term incumbent. And
recently, as a State Representative in the
mostly rural state of Missouri, he advocated
an anti-bullying law in the legislature; and the
next day came out
publicly as gay while opposing a proposed "Don't Say Gay"
law. And he's just getting started!
By his own account, he only
recently realized he was gay. He'd been
focused on his studies and work and goals, he says,
and he does not let himself get distracted very
easily. Add to that that he grew up in a town
of just 550 people, with a high school graduating
class of 20, where internet connections are still
slow to this day. You can hear the corn grow
in a place like that, and you either leave as soon
as you can or love the Heartland. Zachary
Wyatt has a genuine love for home, for rural
Missouri; and even after
traveling the world for seven years in the Air
Force, he came right back home and with homespun
passion promptly got elected to represent his home
Volunteering to serve was
natural for the grandson of a Korean War Navy
veteran, whose father and uncles served in the
National Guard, and whose older brother served in
the Navy for nine years. I frankly forgot to
ask him what made him choose the Air Force, with that
background, but perhaps he had heard about the food
Representative Wyatt was in
11th grade in high school on 9/11 when our nation
was attacked. He didn't waste a moment, upon
graduation, to volunteer to do his part for our
country. Two weeks after receiving his
diploma, he was at Lackland AFB beginning his basic
training. Ever ambitious, even then, he
already had plans for using the educational benefits
he would earn. Although he was slated to be an
ordinary Avionics Specialist, a test revealed his
aptitude for linguistics, resulting in his
studying Russian and his subsequent extension of his enlistment to study a
second Slavic language.
He rose rapidly to Staff
Sergeant (E5 in the AF) and traveled to some 35
countries in the course of his duties, including
England and Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
In the rarified atmosphere of highly intelligent
Cryptologic Linguists, there was a sort of
small-unit sense of family among the Airmen.
Within those units, people knew what there was to
know about each other, yet no one asked, no one
told, and no one cared, according to Wyatt.
What mattered was the ability to do the job, he
said; as it should be and as it is now.
Despite the DLI DADT discharge scandals and witch
hunts of the era during which he served, he and his
peers experienced none of that, he said. There
was no fear, that he knew of, within the units in
which he served. And although he had inklings
about himself, as many rural young people begin to
do when they leave home and see the world while
serving, it simply didn't connect with who he was at
that time; and so he never felt threatened by what
was happening to gay people elsewhere within the
military. How fortunate for him and our
nation, when so many other of our best and urgently
needed linguists were lost to a senseless policy of
Zachary Wyatt seems to be the
sort of young person who devotes himself intently to
carefully selected growth building experiences and
then, after making his mark of excellence, moves on
to the next challenge. That cleverly avoids
getting stalled in careers that can grow stale over
time. Months before political circumstance
motivated him to decide to come out to his
constituents and colleagues, he had already decided
to leave the legislature after one term in order to
continue his education. The somewhat
unanticipated 15 minutes of national fame, resulting
from his coming out, certainly made his mark of
excellence and courage as a citizen-representative.
The potential fallout from coming out is a mute
issue because he's not running for reelection.
In fact, he notes, many of his political colleagues
made a point of letting him know that they have
changed their positions on the two legislative bills
specifically because they know and respect him.
Accomplishing that is a major lifetime achievement
based upon the strength of his character. And
he's just getting started!
Like any self respecting gay
American, Representative Wyatt supports same sex
marriage rights and he celebrates President Obama's
recent personal policy statement and his having
enacted the repeal of DADT. So, the fact that
he is very much a red blooded Republican leaves many
gay folk rather incredulous, including me.
Hang on, before you have a heart attack. Let
us not forget the fact that Leonard Matlovich,
another gay Air Force Staff Sgt., was a Republican;
one of our greatest gay military heroes, who in 1974
sacrificed his 17 year military career for the sake
of our future rights. (Lenny, who was a friend
of mine, ran as a Republican in 1979 to fill a seat
on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors that
Harvey Milk held when was assassinated.
He lost; he got 410 votes, including mine, which was
the exact number of friends he had there at the
Many, on both the left and the
right, might be relieved that Rep. Wyatt is not
running for reelection. It avoids awkward
political considerations that could arise.
However, he did say that he intends to promote gay
rights within the Republican Party. That may
seem to be a hopeless endeavor, but Zachary Wyatt
hasn't failed at anything he's ever done. And
he's just getting started.