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Chicago holds 10th annual Salute to LGBT veterans
by Tracy Baim, Windy City Times

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The City of Chicago's 10th annual Salute to LGBT veterans, "With Liberty and Justice for All," was held June 25 at Daley Plaza. The event is hosted each year by the Chicago Commission on Human Relations Advisory Council on Veterans Affairs and the Chicago Chapter of the American Veterans for Equal Rights.

William Schmutz, director of the Commission on Human Relations Advisory Council on Veterans Affairs; Mona Noriega, commissioner, Chicago Commission on Human Relations; and Greg Harris, Illinois State Representative, participated. Noriega read a proclamation from Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The keynote speaker was Jose Zuniga. In 1993, Zuniga was named Soldier of the Year, shortly thereafter came out as gay, hoping to make a point, and was quickly discharged under the ban on gays serving in the armed forces.

Zuniga thanked the veterans and city leaders assembled for their roles in winning open service in the military and in other human-rights frontiers.

He quoted TSgt. Leonard Matlovitch, one of the first to challenge the military's ban on gays In the military. "'I want you to look at our flag, our rainbow flag, and I want you to look at it with pride in your hearts because we, too, have a dream. And what is our dream? Ours is more than an American dream, ours is a universal dream. It is to reach out to people and teach them to love and not to hate.'"

Zuniga went on to say that the work is not done, that the struggles for the well-being of veterans, youth, elderly, and homeless are linked to the fight against substance abuse and the fight for health care and employment.

"'The only way for evil to prevail is for enough good people to do nothing,' is a quote heard often," he said. "The more we think that this will not happen to us, or that it is the other guy's problem and not mine, the more we lose our ability to stand up and say, 'That is not right!'"

Rev. Wayne Bradley of the Metropolitan Community Church offered the invocation. The national anthem was presented by Dean Ogren, "America the Beautiful" by travis and taps by Melissa Terrell and Sue Jones of the Lakeside Pride Freedom Band. A wreath with a pink triangle in honor of GLBT veterans was laid at the city's Eternal Flame.

Photos by Tracy Baim

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