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City Salutes GLBT Vets
by TRACY BAIM
2003-06-18

This article shared 3137 times since Wed Jun 18, 2003
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Chicago Mayor Richard Daley made history again for the GLBT community, proclaiming June 11, 2003 as 'Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Veterans of America Day in Chicago.'

While Daley did not attend the ceremony held in Richard J. Daley Center, his GLBT liaison, William Greaves, read the proclamation to the few dozen people gathered at 10 a.m. during a work day downtown.

The American, military and pride flags flew together during the ceremony, which was sponsored by the Chicago Commission on Human Relations Mayor's Advisory Council on Veterans Affairs, and the Mayor's Advisory Council on LGBT Issues.

'With Justice For All' featured speeches by state Rep. Larry McKeon, as well as Ald. Tom Tunney and Ald. James Balcer, a Bronze star veteran himself who has been strongly supportive of GLBT veterans' issues.

The ceremony also included a presentation of colors, congressional greetings, and a wreath laying at the eternal flame. Non-gay veterans helped celebrate the occasion, and members of the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus performed 'God Bless America,' and the National Anthem. Supportive veteran Rick Murray sang 'America the Beautiful.' Rev. Wayne Bradley of Good Shepherd MCC gave the invocation.

Rochelle Crump, director/community liaison for the city's Advisory Council on Veteran's Affairs, said as a straight, female, African- American veteran, she can identify with some of the problems GLBTs face. 'It is not often we get the opportunity to thank you for your contributions to this nation,' she said.

McKeon was the keynote speaker. A veteran of the Vietnam war, he spoke about working with Ald. Balcer when McKeon was the city's gay liaison, and Balcer was head of the Veteran's Advisory Council. At first he was intimidated, but McKeon said he came to see that Balcer was progressive on the issue. Together, they worked on drafting a resolution sent to President Clinton condemning the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy banning gays.

GLBT veterans 'have served in every war,' McKeon said, from Roman and Greek times to World War I and II, the Korean War, Vietnam and the Gulf wars. He said the experiences of gays and lesbians during World War II helped create the liberation movement which culminated in the Stonewall Riots of 1969.

'Those veterans came back to major cities, and were part of the emerging gay communities. It was those veterans who built the foundation of a GLBT community, that enabled the human-rights movement,' McKeon said.

McKeon said gays and lesbians are serving now overseas, including many who were in the process of being kicked out before the war, whose discharges were put on hold. 'This is a tragedy in our country,' he said. 'They can be used for cannon fodder, and if you're fortunate enough to survive, you are not worthy of being in and you will be thrown out.'

In his comments Ald. Balcer pointed to American Veterans for Equal Rights national secretary Jim Darby as 'one of the most patriotic people I know. He participates in all of the city's veteran's ceremonies.'

Darby was MC for the event, and several others members of the AVER Chicago chapter helped at the event, including in the Presentation of Colors, and for Taps.

From left: Ald. Tom Tunney, Ald. James Balcer and Rep. Larry McKeon salute the flag. AVER Chicago Color Guard member Angie Colella is in back. Photos by Tracy Baim


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