Living in Hampton Roads, it's impossible to escape the huge military presence and hearing about military related events. One such event was the 50th Anniversary event for the Navy SEALS, which were first organized in January of 1962. In honor of the occasion, more than 150 retired and active Navy SEALs attended a 50th anniversary ceremony Friday at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in nearby Virginia Beach. One of the two two featured speakers at the SEALS' 50th anniversary ceremony was Rudy Boesch, a retired Navy SEAL and locally, best known as a former cast member of the reality TV show Survivor.
Boesch apparently behaved himself until asked if he keeps in touch with any members from Survivor cast; Boesch's response was that "I don't talk to queers -- and when I say queer, I mean homosexuals." Not only was the comment uncalled for and inappropriate, placing those in active military status in an awkward position, it's not true.
First, I have known several gay SEAL team members, so it's all too likely Boesch has in fact spoken to gays in the military. He's simply too ignorant to know it. Moreover, years ago when we lived in the same neighborhood, Boesch spoke with me more than once. I was precinct captain for a political party and every time Boesch went to vote, he spoke to yours truly. Boesch typifies the ignorance of those who think they don't know and interact with gays on a regular basis.
Here are highlights from the Daily Press on the unfortunate display of bigotry:
Rudy Boesch, a retired Navy SEAL and former cast member of the reality TV show "Survivor," was one of two featured speakers at the SEALS' 50th anniversary ceremony. He spent much of his speech reflecting on his 45-year career in the military. His speech took an unexpected shift in his final remark. Boesch said when people ask him if he keeps in touch with any members from Survivor, he responds: "I don't talk to queers -- and when I say queer I mean homosexuals."
Lt. Arlo Abrahamson, a public affairs officer for Naval Special Warfare Group 2, said, "Those were his views as a retired Navy SEAL. Those views do not reflect the views of the United States Navy or Naval Special Warfare."
Members of gay rights organizations, when told of Boesch's comment Friday, expressed dismay. "How is that pertinent to the purpose of the event?" said James Hermansen-Parker, president of Hampton Roads Pride, a gay rights organization in Norfolk. "How is that pertinent to the celebration of 50 years as Navy SEALs? I find it very closed-minded of him."
"I'm disappointed and I thought he was better than that," said Michael Hamar, a gay activist and Norfolk attorney. "I think with 'don't ask don't tell' ended, it's inappropriate now. He's making a bigoted remark at a military function where the military now -- at least formally -- says it's a non-issue."
Boesch was speaking at about the same time that The Virginian-Pilot reported that Navy Capt. Owen Honors would retire April 1. Honors was relieved of command of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise for making videos that included anti-gay jokes.
Fortunately, the mindset of those like Boesch will eventually die out as bigots die off. Meanwhile, it's unfortunate that he needlessly tarnished what might otherwise have been an honorable event.