Recently, I wrote that we as a community should support Black athletes who boycott, protest, or take a knee. I heard from many that the athletes were not always on our side, so why should we be back them now?
Likewise, as a community, we could say that the military has “not always been there for us.” We were locked out until about 10 years ago, despite a horrible attempt to protect us with “don’t ask, don’t tell.” And, military troops, in some corners, can still be homophobic, bully, torture or even kill other gay service members.
It's estimated that more than 36,000 gay men and lesbians are serving in active duty, representing 2.5 percent of active duty personnel. When the guard and reserve are included, nearly 65,000 men and women in uniform are likely gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Our transgender brothers and sisters were booted from the military early in Trump's presidency thanks to his shameful and discriminatory policy, though some do continue to serve.
Beyond the sheer number of LGBTQ+ people in the armed services, the military, and its history is really a part of all of us, because it has protected our democracy through wars, and in their never-ending responsibility to safeguard every American from our enemies abroad. And our military is now under assault, not by a foreign country, but by an enemy within, the president of the United States.
It’s time for us to close ranks around the military.
The military to many of us is personal. Over the weekend, my social feeds were filled with pictures of friends' loved ones who served, or were harmed or lost while on active duty, with the caption "not a loser or a sucker."
The afront by Trump was personal to me as well. My father, who I revered, lost his brother, my Uncle Bob, in World War II. My dad was 15 years old, without a father, when his older brother left for the war. He handed my father his prized Hamilton watch, and said, “take care of this for me.” My father wore that watch every day for the next 34 years, including the two years he served in the United States Army.
I have that watch now, and it’s engraved on the back with my uncle’s name, “Bob Casey, Bellevue, PA.” Bob Casey was beloved in Bellevue, and his death shook that community. He was not a “loser” or a “sucker.”
Most of us may have an uncle, a father, a husband, a brother, a sister, a mom, a wife or an aunt who was either injured or killed while serving their country. And each of us with a relative who served holds those family members in very high esteem, and close to our hearts. To those who have died, it’s a tradition to place American flags on their graves, if we’re able to, on Memorial Day.
Or, when 50th, 75th, or 100th anniversaries of major battles, like the Battle of Belleau Wood, are commemorated, world leaders gather in Europe, at the cemeteries or battlefields, to honor those whose lights were snuffed out by bullets and bombs. One world leader – no, one detestable despot – decided not to go because the blowing wind risked messing up the hair on his head – ironic since many of those victims had their heads blown off. Their tombstones, which sit abroad, are the only markers of lives that disintegrated.
My uncle is buried in Arlington, Va., and when I lived in Washington, D.C., I would take long runs out to that cemetery to see him. He wasn’t easy to find at first, because so many of our heroes are lying alongside him. While jogging through, I always took time to read the headstones. What always saddened me was how young they all were when they died. I was in my twenties during the years I spent in D.C., and many of those soldiers who are buried with my uncle never made it past their teens.
A majority of those killed in wars on behalf of protecting the United States never became uncles, fathers, husbands, aunts, mothers, or wives. We can only imagine the lives they might have lived.
The president – he so does not deserve that title or certainly the title of Commander in Chief – has debased the existence of all those who have served and died, mocked the memories of many brave hearts, and shattered the images and imaginations of what might have been for millions of relatives. Families are feeling betrayed, humiliated and disgusted with what they have read and heard stemming from the shocking Atlantic article last week. The story was confirmed by numerous news organizations, including The Washington Post, Associated Press, and even Fox News. The cruelty of the tyrant Trump's words is immeasurable, incalculable, and despicable.
Donald Trump’s sister, in a leaked recording, called him cruel. But he’s beyond that word. And his words beyond cruel. How much crueler can it get for military families? There is the initial heartbreak when the to-be soldier leaves home. There is the never-ending worry of the family for that soldier’s well-being while in service. Then, for some, there is that phone call that the soldier has been injured, maimed, disfigured. Or, for others, harrowingly, that feared knock at the door. Now, Trump adds blatantly bitter insult to life-altering injuries or life-altering deaths.
There is no excuse, no defense, no apology that will ever dispel the anguish of Trump poking and jabbing all those festering wounds.
Therefore, we, as a community, need to stand strongly behind our armed services today and always. Most importantly, we need to uphold and hold close to our hearts any of our family, friends, or neighbors who have someone serving our country today. Or more somberly, to the families of anyone we know who has a relative that paid the ultimate price.
Some of you who may read this have perhaps had a difficult time the past 24 hours hearing the words “loser” or “sucker” in reference to you who might be presently serving our country, and among the tens of thousands of LGBTQ+ troops. We know how Trump feels about our community. We can only imagine how he feels about the repugnancy of an LGBTQ+ soldier. His administration's hatred over trans people serving is blatantly obvious and criminal. Well, that is not how the LGBTQ_ community feels about you. We love and honor you, so please rest assured we call you our own heroes and patriots.
My Uncle Bob will forever be a patriot. He rests soundly now in Arlington National Cemetery, where thousands of others are resting too. I never knew him, but my father worshipped the ground he walked on, as did Uncle Bob’s six surviving sisters, and his adoring, widowed mother. My grandmother, who lost her husband before my dad was born, never really got over losing her oldest son. The mere mention of his name brought tears to her eyes.
Having Uncle Bob referred to as a “loser” or a “sucker” would have crippled her. When she died, I know she went straight to heaven to join my dad and uncle. I know one “loser” and a “sucker” won’t see them there when he dies, because he’s going straight to hell.