As the Senate Armed Services Committee announces that it will hold hearings on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) this fall, we’ve lost another gay veteran.
I got word today that an old friend and co-worker died.
She was a retired veteran, an old school butch lesbian, and a proud Portuguesa who had the same name as my Azorian aunt.
She died as the result of many kinds of cancers. I forget what order they came in – first breast, then lung, then liver or brain – because they cropped up like wildfires.
When it all started with a lump in her breast, she explained that she’d been waiting, knowing she was a ticking bomb, having spent part of her military service observing nuclear tests in the Nevada desert.
She told me once how many she’d seen, and while I can’t recall the number, I remember being shocked by it. She described the sight and sound of the blasts, and the hot rush of wind that followed. She said she wouldn’t mourn the loss of her breasts, since she’d always been called “sir” anyway, and joked that after her masectomies, she would have pansies tattooed where she used to have nipples. But within months there was another cancer. One the VA said was unrelated to the one in her breast. And then another…
She served before DADT. She served in silence. She served a country that wouldn’t acknowledge who she was, and kept her silence by threatening the loss of her career.
And, while she didn’t die in the line of duty, she ultimately died for her country, because of the duty for which she had volunteered.
Thanks for everything, A. Rest in peace.