By Vickey Casey
Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan’s sacrifice as a soldier, wife, and mother, and an activist are being celebrated at 2 pm on May 13, 2017 in Washington D.C.’s Dupont Circle. Join Karen and Casey, her wife and daughter, and many others to celebrate the LGBTQ heroes who worked to making this world a better place.
The two met through a mutual friend in 1997, but their relationship did not start until fate drew them together at the Lexington Herald Leader in Kentucky. “I think we both knew right away,” said Karen. “Pretty much from the time that we met we knew that we would be together.” In December 2000, the couple were joined in a civil union.
“We were together for 16 years before she passed away,” she said.
Charlie joined the army in 1984, right after she graduated from high school. “That was not an easy time to be a lesbian in the army,” Karen says. “You could not be yourself and you could not let on to other people about your personal life.”
There were a few investigations, this was the time when “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) was still in full effect, and she got through them with her career intact. However, the toll her personal life was too much and she decided to leave the military after eight years.
Despite the challenges she faced in the army, Charlie still wanted to do her part and they decided that she would re-enlist. “We knew we would have to still hide our relationship from the military,” said Karen. “You couldn’t be who you were. You definitely couldn’t introduce your family and your spouse at that time.”
The law forced the couple to be creative with things like emergency notification. “Ultimately, we decided that we’re worth the positive things that come from doing the right thing, to be involved with helping the country,” she said.
Charlie joined the National Guard part-time but when they moved to New Hampshire, to raise their
daughter in a more accepting environment, Charlie decided she wanted to transition to fill-time work. Charlie became a Warrant Officer who specialized in education. She later took on the roles of Equal Opportunity Officer and then as Sexual Assault Response Coordinator.
“She was able to protect and defend other people’s right but not her own at that point,” says Karen, “but she hoped that policy would change and she would be in a position to make life a lot better for her and her family in the long run.”
She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 recovered and was declared free of the disease. In 2010 Charlie left for a year-long deployment to Kuwait. It was the first overseas mission of their relationship and challenging for both moms and young Casey. Karen says she was isolated that year so they communicated through Skype every few days. “As a same sex couple, we had to be careful about saying I love you,” she says.
When Charlie returned in September 2011, after DADT was repealed, she wanted her wife to attend a soldier re-integration program. Her request was denied because of the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA) and this sparked the two year fight for equal rights. Specifically, the protections and benefits awarded to heterosexual couples. That same month she was also diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer.
The disease stopped Charlie from finishing this mission, but not before she did everything in her power to fight DOMA. In February of 2013, she passes away in hospice surrounded by loved ones. Karen was given the flag after the ceremony, something that according to the law should not have happened. Then in 2014, she received survivor’s benefits.
From all of us here at Tagg Magazine, Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan we thank you for your service, your dedication, and your sacrifice.