By John Mack Freeman
The first official federal monument to honor the service of LGBT veterans will be unveiled on Memorial Day (May 25, 2015). Via the Windy City Times:
The first federally approved monument honoring LGBT veterans will be dedicated Monday, May 25—Memorial Day—at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Illinois, one hour south of Chicago.
The monument, which was spearheaded by Stanley J. Jenczyk, junior board member of the Chicago chapter of the American Veteran’s for Equal Rights ( AVER ), was approved late last year by Ronald E. Walters, interim undersecretary for memorial affairs.
“When I went to check out the monument’s progress this past week, one of the co-owners of the company who is making the monument, John Gast, handed me the Navy medallion that will be affixed to the monument,” said Jenczyk. “John didn’t know that I was a veteran of the Navy and when I told him that, both of us thought it was kismet that he showed me this medallion out of the five other medallions that will be affixed to the monument. Holding that medallion in my hand moved me and reminded me of my service to this great nation. I’ve waited for four long years to see this monument for LGBT veterans come to fruition. This ceremony will be a fulfillment of America’s promise of honoring all who have served in every branch of the military.”
“This is the first monument for LGBT veterans created by LGBT veterans that will be dedicated at any cemetery in the National Veteran’s Cemetery System,” said Chicago-AVER Vice-President/Secretary James Darby. “I never believed anything like this could’ve happened because we’ve been discriminated against for so long in many areas of life including the military with the now-defunct Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell ( DADT ) policy. This ceremony is going to be an incredibly emotional experience for all of us.”
The ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. along and within the Memorial Walkway and will feature music by the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus; blessings from Rabbi Cindy Enger, Fr. Chris Myers and Rev. Wayne Bradley; remarks from elected officials including Rep. Robin Kelly ( whose district includes the cemetery ), and a Flag Line led by members of Organized Chaos Chicago ( OCC ), some of whom are active duty or veterans of the military.