At 92, Rupert Starr still advocates for gay service members, veterans

In this Oct. 22, 2014 photo, Rupert
In this Oct. 22, 2014 photo, Rupert “Twink” Starr adjusts a flag at his house in Upper Arlington, Ohio. Starr, 92, who is gay, is a World War II veteran and ex-POW who told his story to aid in the 2011 repeal of the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy and continues to advocate for gays serving in the military. Andrew Welsh-Huggins, AP

UPPER ARLINGTON, Ohio — Like thousands of other young men in the 1940s, Rupert Starr joined the Army, fought overseas and saw his share of hardship, including several weeks as a German prisoner of war.

He returned to Ohio with a Bronze Star for heroism and a secret.

Not until his service as a military man was needed once again – this time as an activist against the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy banning gays from openly serving in the military – did Starr, who is gay, slowly step out of the closet.

Now 92 and still on the go, Starr – known universally by his family nickname “Twink” – is unabashed in his support for fellow gays in the service and love for his country.

“They were saying that you could not have the courage or the nerve to be in combat and you weren’t qualified then to protect your buddy, because you would give up, you’d fade or you’d die, you cry,” said Starr, who was honored this past weekend at a Stonewall Columbus veterans event.

“Well, that’s not true,” he said. “And I can prove it.”

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Starr grew up in the central Ohio village of Mount Sterling where his father was a dentist and his mother a high school teacher. He majored in business at Ohio University where he joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. He enlisted in 1943 and graduated from infantry school as a second lieutenant.

Starr, a liaison officer with the 422nd Regiment of the 106th Infantry Division, was shipped overseas in October 1944, first to England, then to St. Vith, Belgium. He was returning to headquarters from a mission trying to establish a regiment’s whereabouts in the Battle of the Bulge when he and a sergeant were captured by the Germans on Dec. 21, 1944.

Starr survived a series of harrowing travails as a POW, including eight days in a…

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