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This Vietnam veteran broke the internet’s heart when he came out in his obituary

A casket with flowers
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Army veteran and retired fireman Colonel Edward Thomas Ryan passed away last week, and in his obituary he left a final note for his loved ones – he’s gay and was in a dedicated relationship with a man for over 25 years.

“I must tell you one more thing. I was Gay all my life: thru grade school, thru High School, thru College, thru Life. I was in a loving and caring relationship with Paul Cavagnaro of North Greenbush. He was the love of my life,” Ryan wrote.

“We had 25 great years together. Paul died in 1994 from a medical Procedure gone wrong. I’ll be buried next to Paul. I’m sorry for not having the courage to come out as Gay. I was afraid of being ostracized: by Family, Friends, and Co-Workers.”

“Seeing how people like me were treated, I just could not do it. Now that my secret is known, I’ll forever Rest in Peace.”

His obituary details the many loved ones he’s remembered by, including siblings, nieces, and nephews.

Ryan founded a radio station in the area and had previously served during the Vietnam War.

He held a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of science degree. He held a Defense of Liberty medal for his service following 9/11.

He received a citation from a New York governor and a Conspicuous Service Medal. The citation reads, “Col Ryan’s Loyalty, Diligence and Devotion to Duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Military Service and a long and distinguished Military career which reflect great credit upon himself and the State of New York.”

Comments were left on the obituary listing on, with people sending best wishes to the family.

“I am thankful you found someone to share your life with, and touched that you found the courage to tell the world your story. Rest in peace,” one person said.

Another said, “My condolences to Col. Ryan’s family, friends and community. I did not know Col. Ryan, but I was very touched by the story of this man, who spent his whole life defending others’ freedom but was unable to experience that freedom in his own lifetime. May his life of service and his final act of bravery inspire others to open their hearts and minds. Love is love.”

A pastor said, “I am sorry for the pain from others with hate filled hearts. I am a pastor in Nashville Tennessee and want to tell you what you now know and feel. God loved you every step of the way. God made you who you were and I am thankful for your life and the love you found. May all the people you loved now find grace and peace until you meet again.”

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