From my last post, you might have correctly guessed that I spent Sunday afternoon watching the annual Veterans Day Parade in Manhattan. I've been to a multitude of parades over the years and even marched in some of them but this was the first time that I consciously made an effort to attend a Veterans Day Parade.
What brought me there was a number of unrelated stories that I had read as of late regarding four young men who served in the United States military - 25 year-old Army Specialist Alex R. Jimenez (pictured above), born in the Dominican Republic and missing in Iraq since his convoy was attacked on May 12th; 22 year-old Army Specialist Jonathan Rivadeneira, born in Colombia and killed by a roadside bombing in Iraq on September 14th; 22 year-old Army Sgt. Joe Nurre from California, killed by a roadside bomb back in 2005; and Marine Lance Corporal James Blake Miller - a/k/a "The Marlboro Marine" - whose weary, battle-fatigued face was plastered across the cover of a number of United States newspapers in a now-famous image (Miller has since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and let go from the Marines).
Now, there is no real connection between these soldiers other than they were sent to fight in Iraq and that their stories caught my attention. They also might not be demographically representative of those who have been killed, wounded or have experienced PTSD as a result of their service for the United States in Iraq or Afghanistan. But...
Jimenez and Rivadeneira: I'd been thinking about writing about Specialists Jimenez and Rivadeneira and their relation to the borough were I live - Jimenez' mom lives in Queens and the disappearance of her son made the covers of the local newspapers and Rivadeneira actually grew up with his family in a building that is literally four blocks away from where I live - and the bizarre disconnect I feel exists between day-to-day life in the city and the fact that some of our own neighbors are serving and even sometimes dying overseas. I mean, Jimenez' mother is still waiting to hear about her son's whereabouts and the story has all but disappeared from the local news coverage or from the general consciousness of those who live in this city.
Actually, a friend beat me to it a few weeks ago, at least in the case of Specialist Rivadeneira. Transgender rights activist Pauline Park, who I have known for years and actually lives in the same building as the Rivadeneira family, wrote her reflections on Rivadeneira here.
Nurre: As for Joe Nurre, I don't really remember how I came upon the YouTube video below but I thought it was funny as heck!
And, wait! There's more! Here is Joe Nurre on "safety." And here he is on "Skoal" (thanks Laurie for the vids!).
It was actually while checking to see if there were more Joe Nurre dispatches from Iraq that I also found this YouToube video that shows a news report of a memorial ceremony that was held in his honor.
Miller: Finally there was Corporal Miller. There is a tremendously moving article that appeared this weekend in the Los Angeles Times on how an image of a cigarette smoking soldier that became an emblem of US patriotism and military might in 2002 now represents a more troubling reality for Miller - and conflicting emotions for Luis Sinco, the man who took the photograph (Miller actually talks about his war and post-war experience here and here while Sinco reminisces about the photo and his relationship with Miller as a journalist here).
In some ways, I guess I attended the parade thinking about them and the many other members of the military who are still at war. I might have been among those who opposed the war in Iraq as far back as when the current administration was purposefully marching head-first into it but that doesn't mean that those who have chosen to serve in the military deserve any less respect.
A message from Servicemembers United: In keeping with the general content of this blog, I have touched briefly on military-related stories in the past mostly when they've involved gay Latinos. None of the soldiers above are or were gay to my knowledge and not all of them are Latinos and I probably would have kept my thoughts on them to myself if it wasn't for a message I received this morning.
A frequent Blabbeando reader (and former Advocate magazine cover man) who noticed the Veterans Day post wrote to thank me and to see if I could spread word on an upcoming series of events in Washington, DC, calling for the end of the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" military policy.
The events, being carried out by Servicemembers United in partnership with the Human Rights Campaign, the Log Cabin Republicans, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and the Liberty Education Forum, will take place from November 30th through December 2nd and include a ceremony at which one American flag will be placed on the Mall for each service member that has been discharged due to their sexual orientation.
For a full description of events during that weekend and for further information please check out the provisional Servicemembers United webiste here or contact email@example.com .
There are many Latinos serving in the wars and undoubtedly many who also are gay or lesbian. I actually know of a couple such acquaintances currently serving in Iraq and they should certainly be allowed to serve with honor, along with their colleagues. So, yeah, while the DADT policy wasn't necessarily on my mind on Sunday, I am more than happy to pass along the information.
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