By Lawrence Pfeil, Jr.
While the covid-19 pandemic has killed nearly 100K Americans and forced the cancelation of large formal gatherings for the health and safety of all and even small informal get togethers are strongly discouraged, perhaps we have been given a greater opportunity to respect and reflect on Memorial Day.
Without the usual hype of the “unofficial start to summer” or the pressure to throw the perfect Instagram barbecue, we can be more mindful that today is a memorial day. It is the day we, as a nation, set aside to remember and honor the men and women who have sacrificed their lives in service to the United States of America.
In Arlington National Cemetery a wreath is laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier containing the unidentified remains of a World War I, II, Korea, and Vietnam soldier. It is a sacred memorial to all the “unknown” soldiers who lost their lives. Yet, there are thousands more who have made the ultimate sacrifice but whose true identities will never be known either, the LGBT+ soldiers who served and died in silence.
Military personnel take an oath to “…support and defend the Constitution of the United States…” It is a Constitution which for more than 200 years did virtually nothing to “support and defend” its LGBT+ citizens, and still they swore to support it, defended it, and gave their lives for it. It’s easy to wave the flag, spout conservative rhetoric, and then call yourself a “true” American; but the genuine measure of a patriot is fighting for the idea of justice and equality, even though it has yet been granted to you.
The Veterans Administration estimates throughout American history there have been 1.2M deaths during wartime. Accepting statistically, 10% of the population is LGBT+ that’s 120,000 people from our Community who, as President Lincoln said,
“…gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Let us not forget them today, or when our Community’s place in America or its history is challenged, threatened, or demeaned. Honor them evermore as the right to serve our country is being denied by a Commander-in-chief too cowardly to serve when called by his country. Our Community has proudly fought and died for America as much as any other. We are equal in all things American, including sacrifice.
Can you spot the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender soldiers?