News (USA)

National LGBT Veterans Memorial planned at Congressional Cemetery

WASHINGTON — A national memorial honoring Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender veterans representing the five armed services — Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard — is slated to be constructed on the grounds of the historic Congressional Cemetery in southeast Washington D.C.

Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Nancy Russell, chair of the National LGBT Veterans Memorial (NLGBTVM) board of directors, announced plans for the memorial last week.

Michael Key, Washington Blade
Gravesite of SSGT Leonard Matlovich, USAF, at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington. Matlovich died in 1988.

“The time has come for those of us who were forced to serve in silence to honor our fellow veterans with a dignified and impressive memorial in our national capitol. The National LGBT Veterans Memorial will provide a fitting resting place where our veterans may, as Leonard Matlovich urged us to do, ‘leave a lasting record of our accomplishments,'” said Russell, in a statement.

In 1975, Matlovich, a U.S. Air Force veteran was discharged as the first gay service member to purposely out himself to the military in protest of the ban on openly gay and lesbian service members.

His case resulted in articles in newspapers and magazines throughout the country, numerous television interviews, and 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 service members. Matlovich was the first openly gay person to appear on the cover of a U.S. newsmagazine.

The Congressional Cemetery ,or Washington Parish Burial Ground, is a historic cemetery located on the west bank of the Anacostia River. Over 55,000 individuals are buried or memorialized at the cemetery, including many who helped form the nation and the city of Washington.

Though the cemetery is privately owned, the U.S. government owns 806 burial plots administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Congress.

Many members of the U.S. Congress who died while Congress was in session are interred at Congressional.

Russell also said that board and supporters are hoping to unveil the National LGBT Memorial on Memorial Day 2014.

“The concept behind this project is to create a place where military veterans can proudly proclaim their service to their country as the lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender person they are,” according to the project’s website.

“If they qualify for burial in a national cemetery, they cannot declare their sexuality on their tombstone. Because we have served in silence and often been persecuted for our sexuality, it is important to many of us to openly proclaim for all the world to see that we did our duty and we did it well.”

Donations are tax deductible and qualified current or former members of the military can purchase memorial urns or bricks to commemorate their service.

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