By Lucas Grindley
Originally published on Advocate.com February 22 2012 3:32 PM ET
Amidst the tough political climate for LGBT people, with fights against ballot initiatives planned in several states and lawsuits needed to challenge antigay policies, it's important to remember that people still come together on occasion just to do nice things for one another. This is the story of one of those moments.
Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan got people's attention for going to John Boehner's office this month and meeting with his staff, explaining why it's so urgent that the Republican Speaker of the House repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. Morgan has Stage IV, incurable breast cancer. And the National Guardswoman from New Hampshire worries about what her family will do without her.
As expected, Boehner's staff told Morgan they wouldn't be repealing DOMA. In fact, they'll be defending it. But something unexpected happened, too.
The folks at OutServe heard about the officer's activism, her illness and about her unfulfilled dream of going to Hawaii. So they decided to raise the cash to make that happen. “That’s what we do in the military: we take care of our own,” said Josh Seefried, OutServe’s co-director. “I only hope that Charlie will live to see the country respond in the same way.”
Morgan took her whole family on the trip — her mother Maria, her wife Karen, and their daughter Casey Elena.
"I've always wanted to go to Hawaii," Morgan said. "I wanted to experience paradise with my family."
Before leaving on the trip, Morgan had her first of six rounds of intravenous chemotherapy. Her hair started falling out while she was in Hawaii, so she asked Jeffry Priela, of OutServe Hawaii, to do the honors and cut it off with the clippers. She lives with small tumors throughout her chest and neck, which she says is the most painful area. "I will feel progressively worse as the treatments continue," she acknowledges. But Hawaii would have none of that.
She and her family kissed dolphins, snorkeled at Hanauma Bay, toured the USS Arizona memorial, rode horseback on the beach, experienced a sunset dinner cruise, toured the big island's Volcanoes National Park, and "we swam almost every day."
"I've always been the type of person who lives life to the fullest," Morgan said. But her prognosis "has fine-tuned what that means to me. Essentially, I plan to spend as much time I have left in this life with my family and fighting for equality for all."
Morgan is one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit contesting DOMA that is being brought by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
"I am proud to be part of the SLDN lawsuit against DOMA," she said. "Although I may have this illness, it allows me to maintain the perspective that equality and fairness are worth dying for."
On the following pages, Morgan shared photos of her trip to Hawaii with The Advocate's readers, giving everyone a taste of paradise.