It has been a tradition continued in some form or fashion every Veterans Day since 1989. LGBTQ Community members have gathered in the Congressional Cemetery at the grave of Sgt. Leonard Matlovich on Veterans Day to remember his service and sacrifice, and honor all our LGBT Veterans and Service Members.
Despite 12 years of exemplary service and receiving a Purple Heart, the Air Force demanded his discharge simply because he was gay. Sgt. Matlovich made history when he came out and was the first LGBT person on the cover of Time Magazine in 1975. This year’s service was organized by James Thonley, a USA and USMC Veteran who was himself investigated for “homosexual conduct” while serving our country.
Nearby the grave you can find the gravestones and markers of many notable LGBT activists including Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings. Next to his grave, the LGBT Fallen Heroes Fund has purchased land to build a permanent memorial to all our fallen LGBT veterans and service members.
The Congressional Cemetery is believed to the world’s only cemetery with a LGBT Section. In the 1980s and 1990s when the AIDS crisis gripped the LGBT Community, the Congressional Cemetery was one of the few cemeteries in the nation that would inter victims of the AIDS epidemic.
This year Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Ann Murdoch had the honor of laying the wreath. Previous individuals who have had this honor include Lt. Dan Choi and David Merrill.
See video from the service below. You can also see pictures from the event on the Center Military Facebook page at facebook.com/centermilitary.
Opening Remarks were provided by Luke Dier, Chairperson of Mayor Bowser’s Veterans Advisory Board. The invication was provided by Bishop Allyson Abrams. Readings were shared by Tiera Craig and David Mariner, Executive Director of the DC Center for the LGBT Community. Taps was performed by SGM (Ret.) Ginger Turner. Closing Remarks were provided by Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Eric Burns.
Thanks to everyone who made this year’s event possible.
Center Military, a program of the DC Center, is a resource for LGBT Service Members, Veterans, and their families. Find out more at thedccenter.org/military. You can also find us on twitter at twitter.com/centermilitary or on facebook at facebook.com/centermilitary.
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Learn more about Frank Kameny here.
Learn more about Leonard Matlovich here.
Learn more about Barbara Gittings here.