I went to the Navy Memorial for the Veterans Day Wreath Laying. Although I could have fought the crowds to get to Arlington; or I could have gone to the Air Force or Vietnam Memorials; my decision was to honor my great-great uncle. His ship was torpedoed by a German submarine in WWI; his body was never recovered.
As a very out lesbian veteran I make sure to wear my medals on the five days veterans should and can wear their medals. In my old hometown I was very well known and my story was probably more widely known. But, it was wearing my medals that brought to the forefront how few veterans there are now as a percentage of the population.
The importance of veterans being “out” is an issue as the crazies are being elected; people without knowledge of military service, either their own or their family or friends. These are the Republicans calling for vets to pay for their own health care which means privatizing veterans health care.
Back to the ceremony. I arrived about an hour early so I could take in the beautiful day, I often wonder what the day my g-g uncle died on was like. His ship was torpedoed a bit after 8pm local time, he may have died when the first one exploded or it could have been the second torpedo.
The weather could not have been better on a day when we remember our family and friends who have been killed fighting for our country. I have had several relatives, men and women killed fighting for freedom. The breezed even stopped for the ceremony allowing the wonderful warmth of the sun to prevail.
As the Navy personnel practiced marching and playing their instruments I watched the crowd arrive. Veterans looking around for other vets. Looking either for medals, or a cap or vest indicating service.
I am easy to notice, rather tall, large and very blond. My medals clanked as I walked around, at least the guys don’t have to worry about the big bounce making them sound like an off tune music show. Many people came up to me to ask and tell. It is important that we vets touch and reassure ourselves that we did what we had to do, often having fun, occasionally experiencing horror and pain.
The ceremony itself was like so many other veterans ceremonies I have attended either as a participant or as a viewer. This day I scanned the crowd of about 100 people and noticed something very interesting. I counted at least six and possibly eight lesbian couples. It does not take Gaydar to see hands being held or arms around shoulders or a look between two people who are a couple.
One of the couples had children with them which I thought was great. The children were under five and the importance of the ceremony will not be understood for many more years. But they were there.
After the ceremony I went up to one of the couples to say “HI”. “Navy” was the answer one told me when I asked if either were active duty. The other is a civilian, but her father was Navy. I don’t think DADT was on their minds as they sat through the wreath laying and afterward took pictures of the Sailor and the wreath.
That was a beautiful end to a beautiful and solemn day. Well almost. On the Metro ride back home I decided to risk life and limb by riding in the first car, first seat to watch out the front window. A woman with a very typical 3 year old was a seat over. The little girl was up and looking out the doors at each stop, and just enjoying her ride.
After a while I asked the mother if her daughter would like a flag. I had picked up a small American flag as a souvenir of the day. It was sticking out of my bag. “Yes, that would be nice. Are you sure?” “No problem, just write on the stick the date and Navy Memorial for me.” As the girl took her new flag and waved it around her mother told me, “Thank you so much. We are teaching her about her new country and this flag means a lot to us.” The little girl was adopted, maybe Korean or Chinese heritage.