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Veterans Day

Veterans Day


I followed in the footsteps of my grandfather, joined the U.S. military, and proudly served in Bosnia. Even with "don't ask, don't tell," we should take a moment to thank those who are serving.

The United States is home to an estimated 1 million-plus lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender veterans. This Veterans Day we should all pause to remember their sacrifice for our nation and to understand why, despite the war and a policy of exclusion, many of us still take pride in military service.

I served for more than 12 years in the Army before I was discharged under "don't ask, don't tell." I loved my job, wanted to serve my country, and was qualified and trained for the job I was given. Despite being discharged I still love the Army, and today I am fighting for reinstatement and an end to official silence for LGBT service members.

Here's why: When I was young, I spent my summers with my grandfather in San Antonio, Texas. I remember that everyone in the neighborhood called him Colonel Eariley, even though he never wore his uniform. It was his stately presence that commanded everyone's attention. My mother always said that after being in the Air Force for more than 20 years and fighting in World War II, my grandfather had made his mark in the world. And the world in turn respected his service to our country.

When I was 16, "Colonel Eariley" passed away. His commanding presence was gone. The men and women he served with lined up to mourn his death. Right then I knew that when I grew up, I wanted to be just like him. The Army provided an opportunity to live up to my role model.

I graduated from high school in rural Texas, and like many Americans I came to understand that my mother could not afford to send me to college. The best way to get an education, see the world, and follow in my grandfather's footsteps was to join the Army. I enlisted right after graduation. Four years later I reenlisted. I knew the Army was where I belonged.

In 1995 I was deployed to Bosnia. I saw thousands of graves filled with the victims of ethnic cleansing. Suddenly my sexual orientation seemed a small matter. My gun seemed like an instrument to protect those who could not protect themselves. My sacrifice seemed small compared to the sacrifice of the Bosnian people.

I realized that I was serving to protect the freedoms and liberties that Americans value so deeply. I understood--and still understand today--what those values mean.

I understand the LGBT community's anger towards the military's ban. The men and women who do serve, however--approximately 65,000 lesbian and gay service members are on duty today--deserve our respect and admiration. And on Veterans Day, we should each take time to speak out on behalf of those who have been silenced. We owe our freedom and security to those who risk so much.

Somewhere out there another Colonel Eariley is inspiring another granddaughter to make that noble commitment and to answer our nation's call to duty. They both deserve our thanks, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Stacy Vasquez