Yesterday I marched in the Phoenix Veteran’s Day Parade with Veterans for Peace. Started in 1985, the group is made up of veterans from all of the branches of the military who have served in various military conflicts. VFP’s float had a coffin draped in an American flag on the bed of a flatbed truck, along with boots to represent each of the 140 service members from Arizona who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. I walked behind the float with my peace group, Women in Black. We wear black clothes and black veils and stand silently once a week to mourn those who are victimized by war and violence. The veterans also wore black and most of them carried peace flags.
As I marched, I couldn’t help but wonder if any of the boots on the truck represented any LGBTQ service members. I’m sad to say that there wasn’t a contingent of LGTBQ vets anywhere in the parade lineup or along the parade route. But hey . . . don’t ask, don’t tell. It’s OK if you go off to die in war, but don’t expect a military salute if it comes out that you were one of those queers.
I’m not pro-war and I’m not pro-patriotism. But I did want to give a shout out to all of the LGBTQ members of the military who are forced to serve in silence or punished if they don’t. I was crying yesterday as I walked behind the float and listened to a high school marching band. Somehow, “God Bless America” and “The Star Spangled Banner” don’t mean as much when you’re not treated as fully equal by this government of ours.