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Veteran's Day in the gay community

Chris James

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I was one of the lucky. The Vietnam War was raging as I came of draft age and managed to keep my college deferment until the war ended. Many friends were not so lucky...some of them never came home. I know there are those who feel their military service was an important part of their lives and I empathize with that. Vietnam was not my war, it should never have been ours.

But the image that precedes this article says a lot about how wrong I would have felt as a soldier within an establishment that didn't respect me. It took a long time for gay soldiers to gain respect and it is still an uphill climb. Most of the guys I remember on this day were not gay but they accepted me for who I am. The men and women who were booted from their jobs for being gay need recognition. America's shame needs to be left in the past.


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I was one of the lucky. The Vietnam War was raging as I came of draft age and managed to keep my college deferment until the war ended.

Me, too. I had the extra burden of going to graduate school which pushed my eligibility age to 28. I was worried because I wouldn't have fit in the army at all and for several reasons. I was almost called up, but wasn't. I'll always wonder how different my life would have been had I been one of the unlucky ones.

I too knew people who didn't return. What a wasteful, horrible time.


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Funny thing is that it has been 40+ years since anybody was drafted, but it's still a federal offense if you don't register for the draft. And even if they don't charge you with the crime, you're ineligible for student loans, most scholarships, etc. And women aren't affected by it. Sort of smacks of sexual discrimination.

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I enlisted in the Navy before the war got rolling. You didn't want to get caught then, but it was pre don't ask-don't tell, so you could tell them to go to hell if they had no evidence. A good friend of mine did just that and was ultimately the recipient of an Honorable Discharge. They never got close to me, but my one real affair was with a sailor in the Royal Navy so it would have been difficult.

Don't you just want to cry sometimes. There was not even one sound reason for us going to war in Vietnam. But we did at an enormous cost in blood. And then, while veterans of that war are still alive and well, we go to war in Iraq where, once again, there was not even one sound reason for us to go to war. Talk about insanity on a national level.

I have always had a tough time with the "Big Picture" types. It's always been immediate and personal to me. Several friends with whom I'd grown up, did not survive that war; many of the ones who returned, were changed men, and not for the better.

I physically cringe when I hear some of our presidential candidates glibly bantering about going to war, here, there and everywhere. I would without hesitation tell the young men in my world to go to Canada before I'd want them to fight in one of these whimsical wars.

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