I've written before about my feelings toward Veteran's Day and my honoring of veterans. I've also written before about my feelings toward Don't Ask, Don't Tell (long-time readers may even recall that I worked for the ServiceMembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) one summer). Like Jami, I served aboard a United States submarine during Vietnam. But, in the 31 years that I've been OUT of the Navy, yesterday was the first time that I donned my uniform and marched in a Veteran's Day parade (we had to add a gusset to the side of the uniform blouse and I had to bind my breasts (how *do* the guys tolerate that?), but I poured myself into it). In case you can't see what's on my chest, it's a pair of submarine dolphins, a "National Defense" ribbon, a Vietnam service ribbon, and a Diesel Boats Forever (unauthorized) pin.
But, of course, I was not content to merely march. My Girl calls me a "pot-stirrer" (I think she means that as a compliment). So I marched, but I also carried a sign I made calling for the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. (If you click on the photos it will enlarge them and you can actually read the sign -- it says "Repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Honor ALL Veterans; 1,000,000 Gay and Lesbian Veterans; 65,000 Now Serving").
The day was cold and windy with an occassional drizzle. As a consequence, I believe the veterans marching outnumbered the people watching. I'm not sure, but that may have been a good thing. No one said a single negative word to me. I discovered something that I wasn't prepared for, though. I hate war; I oppose the Iraq war; I think we should stop builidng monuments to the war dead or calling the best of our killers "heroes". I do. I believe all that. But, to my surprise, I discovered a welling of pride as I marched, as I saluted the flag during the national anthem and as I stood there with the 50 or so other veterans. When "Taps" played, I cried, just as I always have (whatever else is said or done at my funeral, I hope they will play that call).
After the parade, and after the (incredibly boring) speechifying, the veterans lined up in a sort of "receiving line" and the crowd filed past and shook each of our hands and thanked us for our service. It was very nice. Several people grabbed my hand with both of theirs and squeezed it. A couple of the old codgers said "If they'd had such pretty women serving when I was in, I would have stayed in" (some people are just clueless). And a couple of people even mentioned that they supported the repeal. I don't know if it made one tiny bit of difference in anybody's thinking, but I was there and I was happy and proud to have been so. Oh, I almost forgot. Both the Detroit Free Press and our local paper printed my letter (the Free Press edited it considerably)!
Also! Check out this post on SLDN's blog:
[T]he Veteran Affairs (VA) Boston Healthcare System has issued a landmark memo to its employees about providing quality care to transgender veterans who use the medical facility.
According to Bay Windows, "The memo mandates that veterans will be addressed and referred to by VA staff according to their self-identified gender both in verbal exchanges and in patient records. Patients will also be given rooming assignments and access to facilities such as restrooms based on their self-identified gender. The memo explains that while federal law prevents the VA from providing patients with sex reassignment surgery, the VA will provide hormone therapy and mental health services to transgender patients according to the accepted standards of care."