Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2017-12-13
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



City salutes LGBT military veterans in Daley Plaza ceremony
Video below
by Gretchen Rachel Hammond

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

When U.S. Navy veteran travis (preferred name spelling) began a rendition of "America the Beautiful" on June 14, his powerful voice stopped people who had been spending their lunchtimes at Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago in their tracks. They pulled out their iPhones and began taking videos or remained frozen in rapt attention.

The song was part of the annual salute to the service of this country's LGBT veterans and another in a growing legacy of moments demonstrating that the passionate sacrifice of those forced to live in the shadows for love of country can never be ignored.

The meaningful event was hosted by the City of Chicago Commission on Human Relations, The Chicago chapter of the American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER, celebrating its 25th anniversary) and the Chicago Veterans Advisory Council.

The pride of LGBTQ veterans was celebrated with dignity, ceremony and honor that began with the presentation and posting of the colors and concluded with the haunting sound of "Echo Taps," as played by Lakeside Pride Marching Band members Susan Jones and Melissa Terrell, while U.S. Air Force veteran Ed Wosylus laid a wreath at the Daley Plaza's eternal flame.

By then, those people who began as curious onlookers had surrounded the semicircle of veterans who stood to attention as the bugle call, unmistakably identified with valor and remembrance, resonated across the plaza.

Conversation stopped. People bowed their heads. There was a mutual understanding between participants and audience of why everyone was there, the battles which have been fought and those that lie ahead even seven years after the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT).

In reading the proclamation by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, City of Chicago Commission on Human Relations Chair and Commissioner Mona Noriega recalled those battles throughout the history of America while honoring LGBT veterans "of diverse yet convergent backgrounds [who] have fearlessly defended the principle of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of these United States through their service in the United States Armed Forces side by side with their heterosexual counterparts."

The proclamation also made note of both the "first federally approved LGBTQ veterans monument on federal land at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Illinois," dedicated on May 25, 2015, and the memorial honoring LGBTQ veterans in the heart of Chicago's Lake View neighborhood unveiled May 29, 2017.

Joining Noriega on stage were veterans representing the United States Coast Guard, Navy, Air Force, Army and National Guard.

Before introducing them, AVER President and Navy veteran Jim Darby remembered the organization's founding a quarter-century ago.

"I put an ad in the Windy City Times asking if someone would like to form a gay veteran's association," he said. "I'm a member of the American Legion. Many are members of the VFW [Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S.], VAV [Veterans Assisting Veterans]; the whole alphabet soup but we found out along the way that we really weren't very welcome. As a matter of fact, they were just putting up with us and that was a good enough reason to found our own organization."

After accusing former President Bill Clinton of "chickening out" by instituting DADT instead of lifting the ban on LGBTQ service members, Darby starkly illustrated the results of the 17 years it remained in place.

"That policy resulted in the throwing out of 15,000 LGBT service members," he said. "What a waste to this country."

In her remarks, keynote speaker U.S. Navy Petty Officer First Class Emily Siefken remembered the history which surrounded and affected her as she grew up in rural Iowa before joining the US Navy at age 17.

"My grandpa was a hero to me," she said. "As someone who did not talk about his life in the army, Vern 'Bad Ass' Bud confided in me about his time commanding an infantry unit during the height of the Korean war; stepping in for officers who had been killed in particularly bloody offenses. He recounted trenches twenty feet deep and ten feet wide completely filled with bodies that were either dead or lay dying."

"In small, religious towns, men like my grandfather are revered," Siefken noted. "They are almost holy models of sacrifice; about as close to bleeding on the cross as any human would likely get. Women, historically, do not fit this model."

Yet, Siefken is the veteran of two wars in the Middle East who was trained in CCTV and satellite communications repair. She worked with Special Forces and Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) teams. She is a former drill sergeant for six male/female integrated divisions and the creator of numerous groundbreaking artistic works including 2007's Here/Not There which paid visceral honor to female casualties of the Iraq war.

"Each of us recognized our worth to each other," Siefken said as she fondly recalled her fellow service members, particularly those who came from economically challenged backgrounds. "We worked together, shared resources in order to be successful; to survive."

DADT led to an end to Siefken's service in 2003.

"The circumstances around my departure are fairly harrowing and sad but I prefer to look on the bright side wherever possible," she said. "Comradery and love are the bright side. I found my fellow veterans floating adrift. We connect over a common goal; to help each other navigate civilian life. Only one half of one percent of the entire population of US citizens have given up their youth and economic potential to serve this nation."

"We have honor, courage and commitment," she added. "Historically as a nation we have few examples of comradery spanning race, class, religion, sexual orientation. This is where veterans, public servants and those interested in the well-being of someone other than themselves can truly make a mark. I believe the concept of what it means to be a hero has fundamentally changed. Who would have thought that our LGBTQ community could be the 'shining city on the hill' referenced by [Ronald] Reagan or that our collaborative prism would cast a gloriously colorful path for this driftless nation to follow?"

For more information on AVER, visit .

The video playlist below contains multiple videos. Choose Playlist in the top left hand corner to watch videos out of order, if preferred.

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

Inaugural gender/justice symposium focuses on women of color 2017-12-13 - Calls for trauma-informed intervention were heard throughout the first ever Gender and Justice Symposium at Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital on ...

Gay News

World news: Couple tortured, 'Trans Day of Rage,' Bermuda marriage repeal 2017-12-12 - A gay couple in Uzbekistan were arrested and tortured by police, who charged them with engaging in illegal sexual relations, NewNowNext reported. Male ...

Gay News

National roundup: Trans Ariz. candidate, Kim Davis, Tinder date death 2017-12-12 - In Arizona, transgender Peoria woman Brianna Westbrook is a Democrat running in Congressional District 8, noted. However, incumbent U.S. Rep. Trent Franks ...

Gay News

Trans student talks fight to secure locker-room access 2017-12-12 - A transgender suburban teenager recently filed a lawsuit against her high school's district to ensure equitable access to public accommodations, even though the ...

Gay News

Attorney discusses Cakeshop case at WBAI event 2017-12-12 - Based on the transcript from the U.S. Supreme Court's Masterpiece Cakeshop deliberations earlier that day, Lambda Legal Senior Council and former National Marriage ...

Gay News

Chicago police to wear body cameras 2017-12-12 - Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson announced Dec. 10 that all patrol officers in the city are now equipped with ...

Gay News

PASSAGES World War II veteran Ed Zasadil 2017-12-11 - World War II veteran Ed Zasadil died peacefully at home on Friday Dec. 8 at the age of 93. Zasadil enlisted in ...

Gay News

Color of Change's Rashad Robinson on the work needing to be done 2017-12-11 - Color of Change, which James Rucker and Van Jones founded in 2005, is a Black-led online racial justice organization with more than 1 ...

Gay News

Fed. Judges reject requested delay on trans military enlistment 2017-12-11 - From Lambda Legal: Court Orders U.S. Military to Immediately Halt Ban of Transgender Troops SEATTLE (December 11, 2017) — Today, a federal court ...

Gay News

US Supreme Court Denies Lambda Legal Appeal of LGBT Employment Discrimination Case 2017-12-11 - WASHINGTON ( December 11, 2017 ) — Today, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will not review the Lambda Legal case on behalf ...


Copyright © 2017 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.