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Memorial Day is for our heroes, too

Our nation owes a debt to the LGBTQ troops who gave their all, even when they had to serve in silence.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This 2019 essay has been updated for the current state of affairs, namely, the Covid-19 pandemic.

Today, Memorial Day, many of us will not experience the usual family reunion backyard barbecues, music festivals, beach parties and packed sports bars. Even if you do venture out, you still won’t find the typical variety of sports to watch, at least not everywhere. And whether you’re going bargain shopping or or just to see friends, we hope you’ll practice social distancing and wear masks to ensure the protection of others.

Memorial Day is actually set aside as a remembrance of the fallen soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and women and members of the coast guard who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.

And as we do so, let’s recall that there were those who gave their lives serving in silence.

They marched like everyone else. They fought like everyone else. They played for their service academy football teams and in other sports like everyone else. And they died, like everyone else.

But until Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed, gay, bisexual and lesbian troops served our nation from the closet. Transgender troops remain the target of a complicated government ban that allows transitioned service members to continue to serve, but forces any currently serving troops diagnosed with gender dysphoria to serve in their sex as assigned at birth and bars them from taking hormones or getting gender-affirming surgery. It also prevents anyone with gender dysphoria who is taking hormones or has already undergone a gender transition to enlist. The U.S. Navy did recently allow for one exception for a transgender sailor; the courts will ultimately decide whether this ban was just or not.

Forgotten, too, will be those troops who took their lives, a growing epidemic that reaches far beyond our LGBTQ community.

Some argue that sports should be free of nationalist propaganda, such as anthems and pledges to our red white and blue banner, and that is our right as Americans. Others argue it is an affront to those who gave their lives serving their country to do anything but join in. Whichever choice we make, there can be no denying that our countrymen and women gave up their voice forever, to have their names carved in stone.

Although almost every march or parade has been either canceled or postponed, Pride officially starts in major cities across the United States at the end of this week. But let’s not wait until June to express our pride in the men, women, gender nonconforming and non-binary individuals who died for our freedom, or in some cases, for causes that we question, as that, too, is our right as Americans.

Let’s remember them all, even those who never got to say out loud and proud, “This is who I am, and I am worthy of love and respect like everyone else.”