Integrating Memorial Day

I am writing this on Memorial Day, 2012. Over the years, as an African American, on this day I have thought of the African American men and women in the military who lost their lives in service to their nation. So many of them in the past served in a segregated military. Some of them could not be buried in cemeteries next to their white colleagues, because of the history, culture and legality of racial segregation. It is impossible for some persons to admit that once there were "black" and "white" places of burial, just as there were "white" and "black" water fountains. But this was in a time of sad, illogical and un-American anti-black racism. That time for the military and our nation is no more.

Today, we observe Memorial Day with the ominous, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" no longer hanging over our military. As I look at pictures of the graves of military men and women today, I cannot help but wonder how many of them were gay or lesbian. How many of those who lost their lives on behalf of the nation, had to conceal from the military and the nation an important aspect of their lives; their gay sexual orientation?

Today, amidst the solemnity that is present on Memorial Day, I rejoice that to be black or to be gay no longer separates or excludes persons from wearing their uniform and living or dying on behalf of all of us.

But even as I rejoice, the memory of Stephen Hill the soldier who asked a question via video at the September Republican presidential debate in Orlando is present within me. The audience booed him as he asked what would the candidates do as president about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." None of the candidates responded to the booing.

And then, there is my memory of my home state of North Carolina and its recent vote to deny marriage equality for same sex couples. Gay women and men can now serve in the military openly, but they cannot marry!

"God bless the United States of America" and may the United States of America –as we remember our history- eradicate all of the remaining practices of bigotry that desecrate our flag and our nation.