at attention

It’s Veterans Day—Salute Eight Of America’s Out Service Members

Allen R. Schindler, Jr. and Barry Winchell

We’ll never know what heights these two men could have reached in their military careers because both Schindler and Winchell were killed by fellow soldiers because of their sexuality.

Schindler was a gay Navy radioman who was brutally murdered in 1992 by shipmate Terry Helvey and an accomplice, Charles Vins. Prior to his death, Schindler was the subject of harrassment on the Belleau Wood—ranging from his locker being glued shut to comments from shipmates that, “there’s a faggot on this ship and he should die.” He had begun paperwork to resign from the Navy, but Schindler’s superiors insisted he remain on his ship until the process was completed. Though he knew his safety was in jeopardy, Schindler obeyed orders and remained in the hostile environment. During a routine leave, Helvey stomped Schindler to death in a public bathroom in Nagasaki, Japan. According to the coroner’s report Schindler’s head was crushed, his ribs broken, his penis slashed and he had “sneaker-tread marks stamped on his forehead and chest,” leaving an nearly unrecognizable corpse that his family could only identify by a tattoo on his arm. The medical examiner said Schindler’s injuries were worse “than the damage to a person who’d been stomped by a horse.”

After the murder, the Navy denied it received any complaints of harassment and refused to speak publicly about the case or to release the Japanese police report on the murder. It was only through the efforts of Schindler’s mother, Dorothy Hajdys, that the full truth came to light.

PFC Barry Winchell, who had begun dating trans entertainer Calpernia Addams, was the target of harassment fellow private Calvin Glover and Winchell’s roommate, Private Justin Fisher, at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. In July 1999, Glover took a baseball bat and beat Winchell to death while he slept. Glover is currently serving a life sentence while Fisher, who had impeded the investigation and egged on Glover’s harassment, was sentenced 12 years in a plea bargain. Winchell’s story—and his relationship with Addams—was recounted in the Emmy-nominated TV movie, Soldier’s Girl.

Though senseless, the deaths of these two young men made military leaders—and the American public—reconsider whether Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was really protecting the safety LGBT servicemembers. A “Don’t Harass” clause was added to the policy, though it did little to end attacks on gay military personnel.

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