Gay and lesbian veterans and active-duty troops across the nation held special observances Friday, the first Veterans Day since the lifting of "don't ask, don't tell."
New York City's LGBT Community Center hosted a reception for veterans. "This is the place where our community comes to celebrate our victories, and the end of 'don't ask, don't tell' is a huge victory for the gay, lesbian, bisexual community," Glennda Testone, executive director of the center, told NY1 News.
The law, enacted in 1993 under President Bill Clinton, allowed gays and lesbians to serve only if they didn't reveal their sexual orientation and was supposed to prevent investigations of gay troops, but it still resulted in many discharges. Some of the veterans attending the reception had served in the pre-DADT days, when there was an even stricter antigay ban.
"I served for 10 years from 1968 to '78, first in the U.S. Navy and later in the United States Army Reserve," said Denny Meyer, a member of American Veterans for Equal Rights. "In those days, we served in silence. That's the term. And with all the homophobic banter and stuff like that, you couldn't say a word, because in those days you could be killed and dishonorably discharged. Now it's all different."
On the West Coast, in the heavily military city of San Diego, gay and lesbian troops were happy to participate in the city's annual veterans parade. Gay vets have participated for more than 10 years, but with the past year's repeal of DADT, active-duty troops were "able to march proudly -- in uniform if they wish," the San Diego Gay and Lesbian Newsreported. Lesbian veteran Evelyn Thomas was an honorary grand marshal. She quoted Bob Dylan to the paper, saying, "The times, they are a-changing."