Another side of deployment:
Another side of deployment:
I am not going to second-guess my old battlefield comrades from Iraq and Afghanistan; each has his own reason for what he has done.
There is no God-given right to victory on the battlefield. You win that through the skill and the devotion, the valor and the ferocity of your troops.
It’s one thing to say don’t commit atrocities on the battlefield. It’s another thing to say don’t get caught doing atrocities.
On the battlefield, the military pledges to leave no soldier behind. As a nation, let it be our pledge that when they return home, we leave no veteran behind.
The battlefield is a scene of constant chaos. The winner will be the one who controls that chaos, both his own and the enemies.
“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”
“It is well that was is so terrible, else we should grow too fond of it.”
General Robert E. Lee
“Tell them of us and say,
For their tomorrow,
We gave our today.”
The Kohima Epitaph
To different minds, the same world is a hell, and a heaven.
Ralph Waldo Emerson,
If I died on the battlefield, then that was the way it was supposed to be.
The most important 6 inches on the battlefield is between your ears.
As a veteran, I know firsthand the satisfaction there is in defending the democracy you so strongly believe in, but I can also attest to the trauma encountered from combat on the battlefield.
Charles B. Rangel
What’s always got me is the fact that when people talked on the telly about Iraq, before Afghanistan kicked off, you’d get only these public-school-type army officers talking about what was going on out there. I kept thinking, ‘Why don’t we get the true voice of the squaddie? Why don’t we hear from the lads on the battlefield?’
America’s fighting men and women sacrifice much to ensure that our great nation stays free. We owe a debt of gratitude to the soldiers that have paid the ultimate price for this cause, as well as for those who are blessed enough to return from the battlefield unscathed.
I have traveled a long road from the battlefield to the peace table.
The dominant feeling of the battlefield is loneliness.
The Valkyrie Initiative
The Valkyrie Initiative is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to the successful facilitation of the after-downrange transition of Veterans, First Responders and their families.
Matlovich was the first gay service member to purposely out himself to the military to fight their ban on gays, and perhaps the best-known gay man in America in the 1970s next to Harvey Milk. His fight to stay in the United States Air Force after coming out of the closet became a cause célèbre around which the gay community rallied. His case resulted in articles in newspapers and magazines throughout the country, numerous television interviews, and a television movie on NBC. His photograph appeared on the cover of the September 8, 1975, issue of Time magazine, making him a symbol for thousands of gay and lesbian servicemembers and gay people generally. Matlovich was the first named openly gay person to appear on the cover of a U.S. newsmagazine. According to author Randy Shilts, “It marked the first time the young gay movement had made the cover of a major newsweekly. To a movement still struggling for legitimacy, the event was a major turning point.”  In October 2006, Matlovich was honored by LGBT History Month as a leader in the history of the LGBT community.
Early life and early career
Born in Savannah, Georgia, he was the only son of a career Air Force sergeant. He spent his childhood living on military bases, primarily throughout the Southern United States. Matlovich and his sister were raised in the Roman Catholic Church. Not long after he enlisted at 19, the United States increased military action in Vietnam, about ten years after the French had abandoned active colonial rule there. Matlovich volunteered for service in Vietnam and served three tours of duty. He was seriously wounded when he stepped on a landmine in Đà Nẵng.
While stationed in Florida near Fort Walton Beach, he began frequenting gay bars in nearby Pensacola. “I met a bank president, a gas station attendant – they were all homosexual”, Matlovich commented in a later interview. When he was 30, he slept with another man for the first time. He “came out” to his friends, but continued to conceal the fact from his commanding officer. Having realized that the racism he’d grown up around was wrong, he volunteered to teach Air Force Race Relations classes, which had been created after several racial incidents in the military in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He became so successful that the Air Force sent him around the country to coach other instructors. Matlovich gradually came to believe that the discrimination faced by gays was similar to that faced by African Americans.
In March 1974, previously unaware of the organized gay movement, he read an interview in the Air Force Times with gay activist Frank Kameny, who had counseled several gays in the military over the years. He contacted Kameny, who told him he had long been looking for a gay service member with a perfect record to create a test case to challenge the military’s ban on gays. Four months later, he met with Kameny at the longtime activist’s Washington, D.C. home. After several months of discussion with Kameny and ACLU attorney David Addlestone during which they formulated a plan, he hand-delivered a letter to his Langley AFB commanding officer on March 6, 1975. When his commander asked, “What does this mean?” Matlovich replied, “It means Brown versus the Board of Education” – a reference to the 1954 landmark Supreme Court case outlawing racial segregation in public schools.
Perhaps the most painful aspect of the whole experience for Matlovich was his revelation to his parents. He told his mother by telephone. She was so stunned she refused to tell Matlovich’s father. Her first reaction was that God was punishing her for something she had done, even if her Roman Catholic faith would not have sanctioned that notion. Then, she imagined that her son had not prayed enough or had not seen enough psychiatrists. His father finally found out by reading it in the newspaper, after his challenge became public knowledge on Memorial Day 1975 through an article on the front page of The New York Times and that evening’s CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. Matlovich recalled, “He cried for about two hours.” After that, he told his wife that, “If he can take it, I can take it.”
Discharge and lawsuit
At that time, the Air Force had a fairly ill-defined exception clause that could allow gays to continue to serve if there were extenuating circumstances. These circumstances might include being immature or drunk, exemplary service, or a one-time experimentation (known sarcastically as the “Queen for a day” rule). During Matlovich’s September 1975 administrative discharge hearing, an Air Force attorney asked him if he would sign a document pledging to “never practice homosexuality again” in exchange for being allowed to remain in the Air Force. Matlovich refused. Despite his exemplary military record, tours of duty in Vietnam, and high performance evaluations, the panel ruled Matlovich unfit for service, and he was recommended for a General (Under Honorable Conditions) discharge. The base commander, Alton J. Thogersen, citing Matlovich’s service record, recommended that it be upgraded to Honorable. The Secretary of the Air Force agreed, confirming Matlovich’s discharge in October 1975. He sued for reinstatement, but the legal process was a long one, with the case moving back and forth between United States District and Circuit Courts. When, by September 1980, the Air Force had failed to provide U.S. District Court Judge Gerhard Gesell an explanation of why Matlovich did not meet its criteria for exception (which by then had been eliminated but still could have applied to him), Gesell ordered him reinstated into the Air Force and promoted. The Air Force offered Matlovich a financial settlement instead. Convinced that the military would find some other reason to discharge him if he reentered the service, or that the conservative Supreme Court would rule against him should the Air Force appeal, Matlovich accepted. The figure, based on back pay, future pay, and pension, was $160,000.
A converted Mormon and church elder when he lived in Hampton, Virginia, Matlovich found himself at odds with the Latter-day Saints and their opposition to homosexual behavior: he was twice excommunicated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for homosexual acts. He was first excommunicated on October 7, 1975, in Norfolk, Virginia, and then again January 17, 1979, after his appearance on the The Phil Donahue Show in 1978, without being rebaptized.[clarification needed] But, by this time, Matlovich had stopped being a believer at all.
Settlement, later life and illness
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From the moment his case was revealed to the public, Matlovich was repeatedly called upon by gay groups to help them with fundraising and advocating against anti-gay discrimination, helping lead campaigns against Anita Bryant’s efforts in Miami, Florida, to overturn a gay nondiscrimination ordinance and John Briggs’ attempt to ban gay teachers in California. Sometimes he was criticized by individuals more to the left than he had become. “I think many gays are forced into liberal camps only because that’s where they can find the kind of support they need to function in society,” Matlovich once noted. After being discharged, he moved from Virginia to Washington, D.C., and, in 1978, to San Francisco. In 1981, he moved to the Russian River town of Guerneville, where he used the proceeds of his settlement to open a pizza restaurant.
With the outbreak of HIV/AIDS in the U.S. in the late 1970s, Leonard’s personal life was caught up in the hysteria about the virus that peaked in the 1980s. He sold his Guerneville restaurant in 1984, moving to Europe for a few months where, during a visit to the joint grave of lovers Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas and the grave of gay writer Oscar Wilde in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France, he got the idea for a gay memorial in the United States. He returned briefly to Washington, D.C., in 1985 and, then, to San Francisco where he sold Ford cars and once again became heavily involved in gay rights causes and the fight for adequate HIV-AIDS education and treatment.
In 1986, Matlovich felt fatigued, then contracted a prolonged chest cold he seemed unable to shake. When he finally saw a physician in September of that year, he was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. Too weak to continue his work at the Ford dealership, he was among the first to receive AZT treatments, but his prognosis was not encouraging. He went on disability benefits and became a champion for HIV/AIDS research for the disease which was claiming tens of thousands of lives in the Bay Area and nationally. He announced on Good Morning America in 1987 that he had contracted HIV, and was arrested with other demonstrators in front of the White House that June protesting what they believed was an inadequate response to HIV-AIDS by the administration of President Ronald Reagan.
Despite his deteriorating health, he tearfully made his last public speech on May 7, 1988, in front of the California State Capitol during the March on Sacramento for Gay and Lesbian Rights:
…And I want you to look at the flag, our rainbow flag, and I want you to look at it with pride in your heart, because we too have a dream. And what is our dream? Ours is more than an American dream. It’s a universal dream. Because in South Africa, we’re black and white, and in Northern Ireland, we’re Protestant and Catholic, and in Israel we’re Jew and Muslim. And our mission is to reach out and teach people to love, and not to hate. And you know the reality of the situation is that before we as an individual meet, the only thing we have in common is our sexuality. And in the AIDS crisis – and I have AIDS – and in the AIDS crisis, if there is any one word that describes our community’s reaction to AIDS, that word is love, love, love.
On June 22, 1988, less than a month before his 45th birthday, Matlovich died in Los Angeles of complications from HIV/AIDS beneath a large photo of Martin Luther King, Jr. His tombstone, meant to be a memorial to all gay veterans, does not bear his name. It reads, “When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.” Matlovich’s tombstone at Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. is in the same row as that of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.
Matlovich’s tombstone at the Congressional Cemetery, which reads:
“A Gay Vietnam Veteran
When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”
Before his death, Matlovich donated his personal papers and memorabilia to the GLBT Historical Society, a museum, archival and research center in San Francisco. The society has featured Matlovich’s story in two exhibitions: “Out Ranks: GLBT Military Service From World War II to the Iraq War”, which opened in June 2007 at the society’s South of Market gallery space, and “Our Vast Queer Past: Celebrating San Francisco’s GLBT History”, which opened in January 2011 at the society’s new GLBT History Museum in the Castro District. A bronze plaque in his memory was installed near the entrance of the apartment in which he once lived at the corner of 18th and Castro Streets in San Francisco. In October 2012, another, larger bronze memorial plaque was installed on Chicago’s Halsted Street as a part of the Legacy Walk, an “outdoor museum” of LGBT historical figures including Milk, Wilde, Barbara Gittings, Bayard Rustin, and Alan Turing, and the Legacy Project Education Initiative in Illinois public schools. In 2013, a memorial to Kameny (1925–2011) was added next to his.
San Francisco resident Michael Bedwell, a close friend and the original executor of Matlovich’s estate, created a website in honor of Matlovich and other gay U.S. veterans. The site includes a history of the ban on gays in the U.S. military both before and after its transformation into “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, and illustrates the role that gay veterans fighting the ban played in the earliest development of the gay rights movement in the United States.
Matlovich’s gravesite has been a site of attraction and ceremony for LGBT rights activists since his interment. Activists including Army Lt. Dan Choi, Army Staff Sergeant Miriam Ben-Shalom and members of GetEQUAL held a vigil at Matlovich’s gravesite on November 10, 2010 before proceeding to chain themselves to the White House fence (and be subsequently arrested) to protest “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.
In May 2011, gay Iraq veteran Capt. Stephen Hill, who would later become famous for being booed by audience members during a Republican presidential candidates debate for asking whether any would attempt to restore “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, and his partner Josh Snyder chose to be legally married next to the gravesite to honor Matlovich’s fight against the original ban. The site features a QRpedia Quick Response code which, when scanned by a smart phone, will result in the phone displaying this Wikipedia article.
Eugene Ashley, Jr. (October 12, 1930 or 1931 – February 7, 1968) was a United States Army Special Forces soldier and a recipient of America’s highest military decoration—the Medal of Honor—for his actions in the Vietnam War.
The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Sergeant First Class Eugene Ashley, Jr. (ASN: 12392673), United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Detachment A-101, Company C, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, in action against enemy aggressor forces at Lang Vei, Republic of Vietnam, on 6 and 7 February 1968. Sergeant First Class Ashley was the senior special forces Advisor of a hastily organized assault force whose mission was to rescue entrapped U.S. special forces advisors at Camp Lang Vei. During the initial attack on the special forces camp by North Vietnamese army forces, Sergeant First Class Ashley supported the camp with high explosive and illumination mortar rounds. When communications were lost with the main camp, he assumed the additional responsibility of directing air strikes and artillery support. Sergeant First Class Ashley organized and equipped a small assault force composed of local friendly personnel. During the ensuing battle, Sergeant First Class Ashley led a total of five vigorous assaults against the enemy, continuously exposing himself to a voluminous hail of enemy grenades, machinegun and automatic weapons fire. Throughout these assaults, he was plagued by numerous booby-trapped satchel charges in all bunkers on his avenue of approach. During his fifth and final assault, he adjusted air strikes nearly on top of his assault element, forcing the enemy to withdraw and resulting in friendly control of the summit of the hill. While exposing himself to intense enemy fire, he was seriously wounded by machinegun fire but continued his mission without regard for his personal safety. After the fifth assault he lost consciousness and was carried from the summit by his comrades only to suffer a fatal wound when an enemy artillery round landed in the area. Sergeant First Class Ashley displayed extraordinary heroism in risking his life in an attempt to save the lives of his entrapped comrades and commanding officer. His total disregard for his personal safety while exposed to enemy observation and automatic weapons fire was an inspiration to all men committed to the assault. The resolute valor with which he led five gallant charges placed critical diversionary pressure on the attacking enemy and his valiant efforts carved a channel in the overpowering enemy forces and weapons positions through which the survivors of Camp Lang Vei eventually escaped to freedom. Sergeant First Class Ashley’s bravery at the cost of his life was in the highest traditions of the military service, and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States
Oscar Palmer Austin (January 15, 1949 – February 23, 1969) was a United States Marine who posthumously received his nation’s highest military honor — the Medal of Honor — for heroism and sacrifice of his own life in Vietnam in February 1969.
Oscar Palmer Austin
Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps
Company E, 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, (Rein), FMF. Place and Date: West of Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam, 23 February 1969.
Entered Service at: Phoenix, Ariz.
Born :15 January 1948, Nacogdoches, Tex.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as an assistant machine gunner with Company E, in connection with operations against enemy forces. During the early morning hours Pfc. Austin’s observation post was subjected to a fierce ground attack by a large North Vietnamese Army force supported by a heavy volume of hand grenades, satchel charges, and small arms fire. Observing that 1 of his wounded companions had fallen unconscious in a position dangerously exposed to the hostile fire, Pfc. Austin unhesitatingly left the relative security of his fighting hole and, with complete disregard for his safety, raced across the fire-swept terrain to assist the marine to a covered location. As he neared the casualty, he observed an enemy grenade land nearby and, reacting instantly, leaped between the injured marine and the lethal object, absorbing the effects of its detonation. As he ignored his painful injuries and turned to examine the wounded man, he saw a North Vietnamese Army soldier aiming a weapon at his unconscious companion. With full knowledge of the probable consequences and thinking only to protect the marine, Pfc. Austin resolutely threw himself between the casualty and the hostile soldier, and, in doing, was mortally wounded. Pfc. Austin’s indomitable courage, inspiring initiative and selfless devotion to duty upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
How disappointing. Gov. Bill Walker has issued a disaster declaration for Alaska’s opioid epidemic. Wasting time and money to focus on recreational marijuana?
Erica Martinson: Rep. Young’s Cannabis Caucus wants to ‘educate’ Trump administration on pot
Many of you have called and written into my office to weigh in on nominees. One of the many great things about our state is how passionately people feel about issues. I want you to know that no matter how I vote on a nominee or an issue, I value your input. If you are ever having trouble getting through on the phone, you can email me on my contact page. My staff and I do review your messages. We are here to serve you.
On that note, before diving into our work in the Senate, I wanted to highlight two cases that my constituent relations staff completed on behalf of Alaskans. In just the past two months, we were able to help a Vietnam Veteran from Fairbanks and a Vietnam Veteran from Mat-Su receive the service medals they earned but never received. Click the links to see their stories.
If you are a veteran trying to receive the awards you have earned, or an Alaskan having difficulties with a federal agency, please know that we are here to help. While we can’t always guarantee a positive outcome, I can guarantee we will work our hearts out on your behalf.
I’ve had the honor these past few weeks on the Senate floor of sharing the stories of Alaskans doing good work all across our state. So far, I’ve recognized Ernestine Hayes of Juneau, Eileen Dubowski of Salcha, Andrew Kurka of Palmer, AlexAnna Salmon of Igiugig, and Mona Painter of Cooper Landing. If you know of an Alaskan you think deserving of recognition, send me a note at AlaskanoftheWeek@sullivan.senate.gov.
Congratulations to Sabra Neyman on winning our fall 2016 Frontier in Focus photo contest with her beautiful capture of a bull moose in a snowy Alaskan winter scene. Check out our other outstanding finalists here.
I want to invite all Alaskan photographers to participate in our winter Frontier in Focus contest. As in the past, we’ll announce five finalists on my Facebook page for Alaskans to vote and choose our next honoree. Send your best shots of Alaska’s beauty to email@example.com by Friday, March 10th.