by Fred Bowers
“Integrity First, Service before self, Excellence in all we do” – United States Air Force Core Values
“Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless-Service, Honor, Integrity, Personal Courage” – United States Army Core Values
“Honor, Courage, Commitment” – United States Navy and United States Marines Core Values
“Honor, Respect, Devotion to Duty” – United States Coast Guard Core Values
Ask any veteran of the United States Armed Forces about their individual service’s core values and most will tell you that the memories and impressions these few words create last far beyond the few fleeting seconds they are seen or spoken. These words are the glue that keeps the “profession of arms” going in a cohesive manner from day to day, month to month, year to year, and from century to century.
Memorial Day is the day we pause as a nation to remember those Airmen, Soldiers, Seamen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen who, inspired by these core values, gave their lives to our country. Today we also are thankful for those who are currently serving and have taken their oath of enlistment to support and defend the people and Constitution of the United States.
A few days ago our local LGBT newspaper, the Washington Blade, featured an article titled “‘Don’t Ask Repeal,’ a Non-Issue for Marines in Training.” The key thread throughout the training was the emphasis on the values of leadership, professionalism, dignity, and respect. These values are core to the “profession of arms.”
As a gay veteran, I was excited to see the LGBT members of the profession of arms FINALLY get the full honor and respect for the leadership, professionalism, and dignity they have shown for many years. During my 21 years of service I gave and received respect, but respect from others was only directed to the straight person everyone I was assumed to be by default. The article also relates that the Marines attending the training should have no problem proceeding toward open service.
Just a few days ago, I visited the Air Force Memorial located near my home in Arlington Virginia. I have toured the memorial before but this time had a very special meaning personally as it was the first time I have visited the site since the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) repeal. It is a striking monument representing the nation’s commitment to air power. This commitment is symbolized by three stainless steel spires designed to represent the Air Force core values and the flying spirit of the Air Force. There are two granite inscription walls at both ends of the site. Looking at past air missions detailed in granite, I thought of my fellow airmen who would have loved to see this monument during their lifetime. Also listed on the wall are Medal of Honor recipients. The Medal of Honor is awarded to military members who have distinguished themselves at the risk of their own life above and beyond the call of duty in action against an enemy of the United States. Reading the inscriptions brought back memories of Leonard Matlovich, who was a recipient of the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. He was the inspiration for many years during my military career and I owe him many thanks for helping me endure “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.
Standing there under the beautiful stainless steel spires, I looked to the sky and thought of the many air shows that I attended during my career and how skillfully the pilots flew their planes. In the future, thanks to the DADT repeal, openly gay Air Force pilots like LTC Victor Fehrenbach will be able to fly the skies and demonstrate the values of leadership, professionalism, dignity, and respect in the service of their country.
On this Memorial Day, I respectfully ask you to take a moment to reflect on the service of those who have died to defend the Constitution of our country. Also please reflect, meditate and pray for the safety and well being of those currently serving our nation. During wars from Valley Forge to Afghanistan, there were/are LGBT military members who gave/are giving their lives to defend our country. Some served in silence, some more openly. May we continue to support service members today as they bravely step out into a world where they will be accepted for the leadership, professionalism, dignity and respect they demonstrate in service to this country and will not be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.
Assistant Vice President for Strategy and Development, Affirmation Gay and Lesbian Mormons
Chapter Director, Affirmation Washington DC