Top Gun Lieutenant Tracy Thorne-Beglund

On Wednesday, I featured one of our LGBT military heroes, Leonard Matlovich, for Veteran’s Day and the moving web site created to honor him. Yesterday, I received a comment from the creator of Matlovich’s site, Michael Bedwell:

As Leonard’s friend and the creator of the Website, thank you, Timothy, for featuring him on this special day. If you haven’t yet, I urge you and all your readers to watch the video on the October 10 memorial page of the site of DADT victim Tracy Thorne-Begland’s moving tribute to both him and all LGBT veterans. Thanks again!

Thank you, Michael, and good work.

[youtube=]Here’s the description accompanying the video, which gives some background on Tracy’s story:

TRACY THORNE-BEGLAND spoke at the DADT Protest and Memorial for Leonard Matlovich in Washington, DC the day before the National Equality March. He was only 25, but already a highly rated Navy Lieutenant and Top Gun when he stood next to the jet he had flown so often in May of 1992 and realized it was his last time. “I knew I was not going to fly again…” Six days later he outed himself on national television to fight the ban on openly gay service members, and within hours the Navy removed his call sign from the side of the plane.

Like Matlovich did years before, Tracy Thorne was one of the few to ever volunteer to challenge the policy, and the first military officer. Though Governor Bill Clinton had yet to secure the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, efforts were already underway in congress to overturn the ban. Lieutenant Thorne and Navy Petty Officer Keith Meinhold came forward on the same day. The next spring, Tracy was one of several gay veterans on the five-week, 32-city cross-country bus “Tour of Duty” to drum up public support. He was only one of two against the ban, out of seventeen witnesses, who demagogue Senator Sam Nunn allowed to testify before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing at Norfolk Naval Base, a process Thorne-Beglund aptly characterized as “Nunn’s dog and pony show” where he was jeered by around one thousand sailors and marines. To wild applause and laughter, infamous racist Senator Strom Thurmond told him, “Your lifestyle is not normal. It’s not normal for a man to want to be with a man, or a woman with a woman.” Thurmond also asked if he had ever considered getting help from a medical or psychiatric standpoint. A court reinstated him after his pre-DADT discharge but, despite his exemplary record and the millions of dollars spent to train him, he was discharged again under DADT, the Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal.

Lieutenant Tracy Thorne-Beglund, one more patriotic reason to support “Don’t Ask, Don’t Give” because we’ve waited long enough for promises to be kept. (Looking back at Strom Thurmond’s nasty remarks in context with the later revelation he lived a lie for so many years about his out-of-wedlock biracial daughter really shows just how bankrupt conservatives are for their judgmental hypocritical stands on social issues).

A special thank you to Sean Chapin for recording and producing the videos at the Leonard Matlovich memorial site.

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