On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, Germany and the allied nations ceased hostilities in World War I. For this reason, we celebrate Veterans Day every November 11.
Aside from the history lesson, there is an importance in honoring our veterans. Without their sacrifice, we wouldn’t have the freedom of a country whose government allows for amending laws, the ability for citizens to speak freely, and the opportunity for all to overcome obstacles. Granted, there are multiple barriers—both direct and perceived—that can make daily life difficult and the pursuit of happiness strained. However, those who defend us have sacrificed their all in order to allow us even the smallest chance of that pursuit.
As a community we’ve gone through the military transition of being excluded, to being closeted, and having the ability to be open. Unfortunately, we’re stuck in a place where our trans brothers and sisters cannot serve. While we still have inequalities in the ranks, over the course of it all, LGBTQ persons have continuously sacrificed themselves so that we could continue to make progress.
So, in honor of our country and those who fight for it, and to mark the eleventh day of the eleventh month, a list of 11 LGBTQ Military Heroes:
Petty Officer Second Class Marissa Gaeta and Petty Officer Third Class Citlalic Snell shared the famous first same-sex kiss—after the repeal of DADT—on the pier after one of them returned from 80 days at sea.
Technical Sergeant Leonard P. Matlovich, a Vietnam war veteran was the first person to purposefully out himself. He did so on the cover of Time Magazine in 1975 as a challenge to the Military’s policy against LGBTQ persons.
Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer is one of the highest ranking openly LGBTQ members of the military. Prior to DADT, she was open about her sexuality and won the right to serve.
Johnnie Phelps was General Eisenhower’s military driver. Upon his discovery of lesbians in the Women’s Army Corps in 1947, he asked her to make a list. She said she would, but her name would be at the top. This caused him to drop the list entirely.
Navy veteran Madelynn Taylor fought for over a year to have her deceased wife buried next to her future plot in Idaho’s veteran’s cemetery. She was originally denied this request because Idaho only recognized marriage between a man and a woman. But, on October 29, 2014, she was finally able to lay her wife to rest in the veterans cemetery, as Idaho’s courts found the state’s marriage law unconstitutional. In 2015, she won a final ruling to allow her own remains to be buried with those of her wife when she dies.
The six service members who chained themselves to the white house fence in 2011 are definitely deserving of our appreciation. At a time when this very act would earn them a discharge from the military, they took a stand for all military personnel who were forcefully closeted.
Thea Spyer and Edie Windsor are two remarkable women who helped changed the course of military for LGBTQ servicemembers. Although Windsor was not a member of the armed forces, her partner’s death is what propelled the United States to change its policy regarding spousal benefits.
Kristin Beck is a former U.S. Navy Seal who procured a lot of attention in 2013 when she came out as a transgender woman. Considering the current protocol on not allowing transgender people to serve in the military, her story is especially important. Many major publications have speculated that because of Beck, the DOD may reconsider its current policies on the transgender community.
Many of our LGBTQ service members have given their lives for us, like one of the first gay military heroes, Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens, who served during the American Revolution. These members are especially important to remember. There has been an entire foundation dedicated to them which can be found at the lgbtfallenheroesfund.org.
As a woman coming into the military in 1986, just eight years after the separate Women’s Army Corps was disbanded, the future Brigadier General Tammy Smith never let anything stand in her way. In 2012, Smith was promoted to Brigadier General at a time where only 7 percent of general officers in the military were female. Smith became the first openly gay U.S. general.
The service members in our own lives who make a difference for us individually are equally, if not more important to remember. Most of us have a incredible women in our lives who have dedicated their lives to our country. So to every individual who makes the choice of service, we thank you.