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Chicago's LGBTQ veterans honor the fallen on Memorial Day weekend

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The Chicago Chapter of the American Veterans for Equal Rights ( AVER ) honored the fallen in Memorial Day weekend observances.

The LGBTQ veteran group, along with the Lakeside Pride marching band, made up the only LGBTQ continent in the City of Chicago's Memorial Day parade on Saturday, May 25. The contingent has been a part of the parade for 18 years. On Sunday, May 26, the chapter also held a ceremony at the grave of Allen Schindler, Navy Radioman Petty Officer Third Class, a gay soldier from the Chicago area who was murdered by shipmates on Oct. 27, 1992.

On Memorial Day, Monday May 27, the chapter and supporters gathered at the granite monument on Halsted Street and Addison which honors LGBTQ veterans. The monument was commissioned and installed by AVER in 2017. It bears the seals of each military branch and reads: "Starting with the birth of this nation, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people have served honorably and admirably in America's Armed Forces. In memory of their selfless service and sacrifice, this monument is set and dedicated by the Chicago Chpater of the American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER)."

At the gathering, Mona Noriega, Commissioner for Human Relations for the City of Chicago, welcomed the group and said, "Thank you for your service, for being your true and authentic selves and for giving to this nations so much more than can ever be truly appreciated, let alone acknowledged."

Chapter president Heather Yang, U.S. Army, gave the AVER welcome and member Stanley Jenczyk, U.S. Navy, spoke on the meaning and the history of the monument.

"This monument is for those brave souls who made the ultimate sacrifice for us," he said, "and to those veterans from this forgotten community…so that our country remembers the servicemen and women from the LGBTQ community."

The Chicago Gay Men's Chorus performed "Courage To Be Who We Are" to accompany a reading by Larry Simpson, Illinois Army National Guard, of the names of AVER members who have passed, and a wreath was laid at the base of monument.

Dean Ogren performed America, the Beautiful.

Events coming up include a June 8 Flag Day Beer Bust and BBQ $10 fundraiser at Replay Bar, 3439 N. Halsted St. in Chicago. 3-7 p.m. and, on June 25, the City of Chicago Salute to LGBTQ Veterans at Daley Plaza with keynote speaker Tatyana Monton, Diversity and Inclusion Service coordinator of Howard Brown Health Center.;; 773-752-0058

—Jean Albright

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