Veterans Day: Embracing Visibility
This week the United States celebrated the holiday known as Veterans Day. Originally declared a federal holiday by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919, the day commemorated the signing of the armistice between Germany and the Allied Powers a year earlier in November of 1918, officially marking the end of hostilities in what was supposed to be ‘the war to end all wars.’
Though WWI was clearly not the last war fought by the United States and certainly not the world, this holiday has lived on since the early 20th century as a reminder of what humans are capable of, and why each generation cannot be allowed to forget the power of conflict and diplomacy lest they find themselves and their countries mired in a similar situation. More contemporarily, Veteran’s Day has come to symbolize a respect and reverence for those brave souls who fought for freedom from tyranny and oppression, freedom from persecution and freedom from injustice globally, and it is a solemn reminder of the cost of war.
This year’s remembrance is especially poignant for the LGB military community, which until last year, was unable to celebrate this holiday alongside their active duty counterparts publically for fear of sending their comrades to an early termination under the discriminatory policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Since the repeal of that law, thousands of service members and veterans have been free to gather together openly, celebrating their victories and memorializing the sacrifices of their fallen warrior brothers and sisters. They have marched in parades, not unlike the one in San Diego this week, proudly wearing service-affiliated t-shirts and uniforms and waving American and rainbow flags side by side, ensuring that a constantly evolving public recognized their contributions equally to those of their straight peers. They stood shoulder to shoulder, embraced by organizations such as OutServe-SLDN and the American Military Partner Association. These organizations provide a chance to stand united among peers, harnessing strength in numbers to ensure the voices of their members are heard.
This Veterans Day, November 12, 2012, marked the second time such a celebration occurred in public forum. This day, where LGBT veterans and actively serving military members and spouses proudly marched side by side, marked a tremendous step forward for equality and acceptance in our military community. While we eat our leftover barbeque and continue to toast our fallen friends, we should pause for an additional moment and reflect upon just how far our nation has come in the last two decades—from outright exclusion, to thinly veiled discrimination, to tolerance and the precipice of acceptance. There is much work remaining. But we must continually rejoice in the victories achieved so far, never forgetting the sacrifices that made these victories possible.