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The Few, The Proud: 5 LGBT Military Heroes Of The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Repeal

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Rob Smith is an openly gay Iraq war veteran, journalist, author, lecturer, and LGBT Activist. He served for 5 years in the United States Army as an Infantryman, earning the Army Commendation Medal and Combat Infantry Badge. After graduating with honors from Syracuse University, he became a noted journalist, with work published at Salon.com, USA Today, CNN.com, and The Huffington Post among many others.

This year, we celebrate only the second Memorial Day in history in which lesbian, gay, and bisexual soldiers are allowed to openly serve in the United States Military.  As a gay veteran myself who served under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in Operation Iraqi Freedom exactly 10 years ago this year, it seemed completely outside of the realm of possibility to me at the time that gays would one day be able to be out and proud while serving their country.  What I wasn’t aware of, however, was not only the rich history of gay veterans who’d served before me but also those who would take up the mantle in the next few years and take the fight against DADT all the way to the White House.  What I also didn’t know is that I would be one of them.  In November of 2010, I joined fellow LGBT military veterans and activists protesting DADT and was arrested at the front gates of the White House.  Less than 30 days later, I was attending the signing of the legislation that repealed the discriminatory law once and for all.

While the end of DADT was an important step forward in recognizing the service of lesbian, gay, and bisexual veterans, there is still work that needs to be done.  Transgender people still aren’t allowed to serve openly, there remains no nondiscrimination policy based on sexual orientation in the United States Armed Forces, and the fight for same-sex military partner benefits on par with what spouses in heterosexual relationships receive is very much ongoing.  Still, the demise of DADT is something to celebrate, though on this Memorial Day when we traditionally stop as a country to recognize our fallen soldiers, we need to remember that we have fallen LGBT brothers and sisters as well.  In our CNN/MSNBC/YouTube era, we like to assign wins to one particular person or organization, but many, many people and organizations took a part in the ultimate demise of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

On this Memorial Day, let’s recognize some of the lesser-known heroes of this movement.  Here, we can celebrate a few of our trailblazers, our fallen, and those who are going to lead the LGBT soldiers’ movement into the future.

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    • Caleb in SC

      Matlovich was in the Air Force, not the Navy. Why the omission of Margaret Cammermeyer and Dan Choi?

      May 27, 2013 at 12:38 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • 2eo

      @Caleb in SC: Because both have being outspoken of the mormon church, and Queerty are sponsored by them [through various ad-aggregate services that are mormon run and apply pressure on the editors].

      Frankly we should be thankful it wasn’t another article slagging both of them off.

      May 27, 2013 at 2:09 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • oldgayvermonter

      I call bulls*&t on this article…both Margaret Cammermeyer and Dan Choi deserve recognition here. I am not familiar with the Queerty – Mormon situation which has been commented on here before, but these omissions are just rude!

      May 27, 2013 at 5:04 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • FStratford

      A list that does not include Dan Choi in the Top5 is a stupid list.

      May 27, 2013 at 11:25 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • dugout

      @2eo @oldgaywermonter I’ll third that…The spin is corpo messy here, but it’s spin and therefore BS. Where’s Lt. Choi and Col. Cammermeyer (ret)? Let’s please have at least the the barest outline of the organization Dan Choi started with his West Point alums, since it’s the truth and all. This is a “friendly pope” newspeak editorial. Oh well, maybe if we wait another few lifetimes Queerty will stop with the bubble gum lip gloss and nylon hair extensions?

      FYI for those who wonder what we’re talking about, since it’s so four years ago. <:p



      May 28, 2013 at 12:22 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jeff4justice

      @2eo: Interesting but what’s your source?

      May 28, 2013 at 2:17 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • 2eo

      @jeff4justice: I use Ghostery [which automatically opts me out of all advertising cookies and MSO flash cookies], Queerty are sponsored by:

      Crazy Egg

      All 4 are advertising companies that were started using mormon money, in which the investor has maintained key interest in. Coupled with the endless pro mormon articles on the site it’s empirical evidence that what is obvious is true.


      You can go back hundreds of pages and all the articles carry a similar theme, in both the language used and the positive overtones. Clearly protecting the mormon church.

      May 28, 2013 at 3:21 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jeff4justice

      @2eo: Interesting. I encourage you to start compiling your evidence and blogging about it.

      May 28, 2013 at 7:46 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Kangol

      Dan Choi should be first on the list, bar none.

      May 28, 2013 at 12:59 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • greenmusic23f

      @Everyone: The article is specific on why the name you mentioned are left out: “On this Memorial Day, let’s recognize some of the LESSER-KNOWN heroes of this movement”. That’s all.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:59 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jonny2020

      You are kidding, right? Where is Dan Choi? He should be at the top. A retraction is needed here.

      May 29, 2013 at 10:06 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • logical

      @jonny2020: Why would a retraction be necessary. They didn’t say anything WRONG, they omitted someone. Does that mean that the people they did highlight are wrong?

      May 28, 2014 at 9:26 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Scott Amundsen

      @Caleb in SC: I don’t know what to attribute it to, but this isn’t the first time I have seen Matlovich’s service branch misrepresented; usually the articles I have come across about him claim he served in the Army.

      As for Cammermeyer and Choi — well the intro to the list does say “lesser-known” so maybe the list compilers presumed that they were already well known.

      May 28, 2015 at 11:35 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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