‘Sgt. Leonard Matlovich’
courtesy of ‘dbking’
For members of the Arlington Gay & Lesbian Alliance, Veterans Day came a little early. Yesterday, the group honored LGBT veterans at Congressional Cemetery, where they held a small service at the grave of Sgt. Leonard Matlovich. After serving three tours of duty in Vietnam, Sgt. Matlovich made waves in the 1970s as one of the first openly gay service members, which led to his discharge in 1975. His grave is inscribed with the words “When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”
According to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, 14,000 veterans have been discharged for their sexual orientation since the institution of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and an estimated 60,000 active members of the military are gay.
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Thank you for reporting on this event, and my late friend, Leonard Matlovich. Actually, in 1975, he was the first gay servicemember to volunteer to out himself to fight the ban.
Also, the 14,000 discharges referenced by SLDN are only the number of known discharges after the ban became the federal law referred to as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and took effect in 1994. The original ban was formalized during WWII, and between then and 1993 over 100,000 gay servicemembers were discharged.
Thanks for pointing out the need for clarification, Michael. It’s been updated.