BY DANIEL TIRABASSI
(Images courtesy of Rainbow Elder Care of Greater Dayton)
Earlier this month, on November 11, the Rainbow Elder Care Center of Dayton held an event at the Greater Dayton LGBT Center honoring 12 LGBTQ+ veterans for their service.
Dayton mayor Nan Whaley was on hand to assist in honoring the veterans who have their name printed on a plaque to be displayed at the LGBT center. This plaque will be added to every year, as more veterans are honored.
This year’s recipients included a 94-year-old World War II veteran, a transgender Air Force colonel and many more. The list of honorees shows how vast military personnel is and how brave the LGBTQ community can be.
“Our LGBTQ veteran brothers and sisters are true patriots,” states Jerry Mallicoat of Rainbow Elder Care, who helped organize the event. “Many served during a time when they had to deny their true selves in order to protect and defend the country they love. Their mere existence in the military was denied, diminished and denigrated, and they faced tremendous risk and danger if they came out. To serve your country in the face of such disrespect and danger is true patriotism — you gotta really care about your country.”
The “country first” attitude is definitely a shared thread among the honorees we spoke to. Tim Dues, the surviving spouse of honoree James (Jim) Louis Tamme, explained that “country first” was what Tamme — who served in the Army during the Vietnam War — always believed in.
“Jim and I would write letters to each other,” Dues said. “When he got back, he used to tell me all the stuff he did in Vietnam. All the good, the bad and the very ugly. We got to talking and we got hanging out together. About two years later, we opened up our souls to each other. We committed to our relationship. That was in 1972. We were together for 44 years.” Their relationship is a shining example of what Mallicoat was referring to.
Dale Brown, another honoree, was a chaplain in the Navy and served a deployment in Iraq. Brown was married to a woman and had three children while serving in the Navy. He did not come out as gay until after his enlistment was over. Brown says, “While I was well aware of the issues and challenges of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, at that point, I was not attempting to live in accordance with my true identity. That was an internalized struggle, growing up as a small town farm kid in Iowa. A family system and a culture that wasn’t accepting of LGBT identity.”
This is a common story of many who served and one that needs to be told and recognized. “For me, this event that Rainbow Elder Care is having at the LGBT Center in Dayton, is another milestone in having the LGBT community affirm my military service,” Brown explained. He continued by describing that many veterans often see others who have sacrificed more than they have, and events like this allow all veterans the chance to reflect on and receive appreciation for their own service, no matter how small it may seem. “It’s particularly poignant to have that recognition come from the LGBT community, which is a newer aspect of my life.” It also allowed Brown the chance to start integrating the new parts of his life as an out gay man with other parts of his life, as his kids and other friends attended.
Currently, the Trump administration is trying to have the Supreme Court hear his case against allowing transgender people to serve in the military. Devin Dame is a transgender man who served in the Army. After his service, Dame co-founded the Dayton-based transgender support group called Gatlyn-Dame Group. Dame expressed the importance of events such as this one, by saying that there are a lot of people who “put their lives on the line for these people who absolutely hate them. It’s funny, in a way. We are willing to risk our lives for them, but they don’t want to give us the rights to marry or live freely.”
Events such as this seem to be sparse in our community. This event highlighted heroes that were not always able to live their authentic lives due to their patriotism and love of country. It is about time that the country they risk their lives for give them the opportunity to live as they truly are. With the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, the military is moving closer to mirroring the society that it represents. This can be amplified by more events like this, that recognize those who risked their lives without being able to be who they truly are.
Tim Dues — who traveled all the way to Ohio from Florida, along with several family members — appreciated this event for what it stands for. “It comes down to, as Jim said, country first. It didn’t matter if you were gay or straight or bi or what, it was about defending the country and protecting the country.”
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