The Cost Of Freedom

Share Button

Today several friends were upset that the Pride flag was flown at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza in Rockville Maryland. Some didn’t read the article (I can’t deny I’m not guilty of that at times) and didn’t realize that it wasn’t the national flag that was replace, but another commemorating POW’s and MIA’s. Never the less, I can understand the discomfort. They replace the POW/MIA flag with the rainbow flag, and without further examination, it doesn’t make sense. By the next day they had both flags flying.

But there is good cause to fly the Rainbow, if just for a little while.

At the end of my high school career, I got more than a few phone calls from recruiters. That doesn’t make me special… Everyone did. When the calls came, I did not enlist in the military. I had no desire to. I never felt it was a direction I should got in my life. Never had that calling. Even if I wanted to, I was (am) short and my eyesight is crap, so I doubt I would have ever gotten in. And then there was the though of the harassing and hazing. I already had amazingly low self esteem and got picked on enough throughout my teens. Why would I want to volunteer for more of that? But that was not the main reason. I’m gay, and in the early 80’s, if I was found out, it would have led to a dishonorable discharge, and something like a McCarthy type interrogation along the way. Then the hostile world would know my secret and life would be ruined. That was my thinking, and from stories I’d hear later from those gay men I would come to know in San Diego who were either serving, or those who had left the service one way or the other, what could happen was worse than I thought. I had one friend who was gay and in the military in the early 90’s.

This brings me to the story of the day. Gays and lesbians who served in the military carried an extra burden. By policy, they were barred from doing so, but they did anyway. They put their lives on the line, and also put their personal lives in jeopardy. There were other bans of course, age being one. But we celebrate those that lied about their age to get in. We admire, and rightfully so, those Japanese soldiers who fought for our country even as others were placed in concentration camps in the country they were fighting for. But no one seems to recognize that closeted gay or lesbian soldiers have a history of serving, and at great potential cost due to unfair and unjustified prejudices and policies. But they chose to serve anyway.

And that’s the point. By serving, even if it was involuntary from the draft, they laid more on the line for their country than many realize. By raising the flag at that memorial, if even for just a little while, those soldier get a little long deserved recognition.

And this is a perfect reminder to get in touch with my cousin Eddy, a Viet Nam vet who came home in 1973 at the very end of the war. And yes, he was a gay soldier.