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  INDEPENDENCE DAY

Born On The 4th Of July: 12 American LGBT War Heroes

Sgt. Leonard Matlovich

In the 1970s, when the gay-rights movement was picking up steam, the cause of gays in the military was fairly low on the totem pole—thanks in part to the Left’s disagreement with the war in Vietnam. Leonard Matlovich, who received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his efforts in Southeast Asia, put the issue on the front page—literally—when he appeared on the cover of Time magazine with the headline “I am a Homosexual.”

Matlovich worked with gay activist Frank Kameny to be a test case for challenging the ban on gays in the military. After Matlovich notified his superiors of his sexuality in 1975, his cause was reported nationwide—in many cases the first time an openly gay person had appeared on the front page of a newspaper. Matlovich was given the option of signing a document pledging to “never practice homosexuality again” in exchange for being allowed to remain in the Air Force, but he refused.

Despite his exemplary military record, tours of duty in Vietnam, and high performance evaluations, he was recommended for a less-than-honorable discharge (which was eventually upgraded to honorable).

Matlovich sued for reinstatement but the case languished in the courts for five years before the U.S. District Court finally demanded he be reinstated. The Air Force instead offered Matlovich a financial settlement. Realizing the military would just concoct another reason to discharge him if he returned to service, Matlovich accepted.

In 1987, he announced on Good Morning America that he had contracted HIV and became an AIDS activist, before succumbing to the disease in 1988 at age 44. His tombstone in the Congressional cemetery (in the same row as J. Edgar Hoover) bears the following inscription:

“A Gay Vietnam Veteran: When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”


  • 13 Comments
    • miagoodguy
      miagoodguy

      It is a shame that Victor Fehrenbach and Dan Choi are included in this group of great Americans. Both are huge attention seekers and Fehrrenbach is pretty much a slut.

      Jul 4, 2013 at 2:33 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Justin
      Justin

      Kirsten Gillibrand is D-NY not D-NH. As she is my Senator, I claim her proudly.

      To miagoodguy (above), both of those “attention seekers” put a face on TV calling out the evils of DADT. Opportunistic or not, they both fought for the change as well as for our country. Demeaning their contribution doesn’t serve anyone.

      Also, enough with the slut-shaming. He’s a free, gay man who has a constitutional right to be a slut if he wants to be.

      Jul 4, 2013 at 11:42 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • miagoodguy
      miagoodguy

      and I have the right to call a spade a spade.

      Jul 4, 2013 at 11:46 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • mjw51295
      mjw51295

      I live close to the University of Notre Dame. There is a statue of Dr. Dooley close to the famous grotto with a letter he wrote from Indochina telling the president of the universtiy how in times of discouragaement he remembered the grotto and drew strength. The current catholic wing nuts wanted to remove the statue because he was gay. But the university refused to remove it. There is hope.

      Jul 4, 2013 at 12:19 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • 2eo
      2eo

      @miagoodguy: Do I have freedom of expression, like if I point out you are a vapid plebeian with the opinion worth of a pubic louse?

      Jul 4, 2013 at 1:34 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • royster
      royster

      @2eo: what ^they^ said, MiaGoodGuy (and that name belies your hatorade). If assuming someone who owns his sexuality and is sexually active is a “pretty much a slut”, we can also assume someone who enjoys belittling his other accomplishments by pointing it “pretty much is jealous because he doesn’t get any.”

      Jul 4, 2013 at 2:25 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • James Darby
      James Darby

      I;ve been involved with GITM (Gays in the Military) for 25 years.
      All of these 13 people have been my role models and personal heroes. Over the years I I have met most of them. Their personal stories and sacrifices have
      been instrumental in overturning DADT. This couintry and all of us
      owe them a huge debt of gratitude. We should continue to honor them,
      not denigrate them.

      I would like to offer the names of a few more heroes for your next
      list. Sgt. Miriam Ben-Shalom, Sgt. Perry Watkins, Sgt Jose Zuniga,
      Cliff Arnesen and Chuck Scchoen

      Jim Darby

      Jul 4, 2013 at 3:07 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • hyhybt
      hyhybt

      Being a slut doesn’t make you a hero, but it doesn’t disqualify you either.

      Jul 4, 2013 at 4:24 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • miagoodguy
      miagoodguy

      I get more than the average gay guy. I just don’t go randomly having sex with every tom, dick, and harry. my partner is enough sexually for me. I’ll take being called a vapid plebian as a badge of honor knowing that I don’t fall at the feet of “hot” gay men and say that they are wonderful human beings when they are far from it.

      Jul 4, 2013 at 4:59 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • manjoguy
      manjoguy

      An excellent, inspiring article. Thank you Queerty for publishing it. I honor the service and sacrifice of all Americans in the military!

      Jul 4, 2013 at 5:04 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • mlbumiller
      mlbumiller

      @miagoodguy: so u u know from personal experience he is a slut? must make u a whore.

      Jul 4, 2013 at 8:32 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • riz
      riz

      Look I’m no hero, but I served and did my duty which was to uphold and defend the United States Constitution. Be aware that includes the right to freedom of speech and expression. I don’t have to agree with someone to try and understand their point of view. Nonetheless, I served during the late sixties and early seventies and was discharged (honorably due to an excellent career) for being gay. It was really difficult to deal with at that time…thank goodness we have made much progress and with a little understanding(of each other) we can continue to do so. Happy Fourth weekend everyone and bring our sons and daughters home from Afghanistan now.

      Jul 5, 2013 at 10:36 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • DerekR
      DerekR

      @mlbumiller: dude if you have a “partner” then I am Tom Cruise. Your bullshit would be more believable if you FIRST deleted you Match.com profile.

      BUSTED you f*cking DOUCHE

      Jul 9, 2013 at 11:30 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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