Monday, March 30, 2009

"Lez Get Real" About Don't Ask, Don't Tell

When PFLAG dad and retired Air Force Colonel Dan Tepfer spoke at a rally in Washington, earlier this month, to support repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," he made quite an impression on many of the people gathered at the U.S. Capitol, including Paula Brooks.

Brooks, who blogs at Lez Get Real, tracked Colonel Tepfer down via Facebook after hearing him speak in D.C. And, as the two conversed via email, they learned they also had many things in common, including families with histories of military service and a connection to Ohio as well.

Last week, Brooks posted a lengthy interview with Colonel Tepfer at Lez Get Real, where the two discussed the role of PFLAG in supporting families and the future of the military's ban on gay troops.

"After Col Tepfer’s speech," Brooks wrote, "I found I had tears in my eyes visualizing having someone you love and cherish, giving the last full measure of devotion they can for this country and that service person’s surviving partner not receiving from that country even the most basics of human kindness that country could offer because they are gay."

"Because I know first hand what that kindness means to the one who receives them . . "

"When a soldier dies, an officer is assigned to attend their funeral. Part of those officers’ duties is give the surviving spouse the American flag that has been draped over the loved ones coffin."

"Honorable discharged veterans are also permitted this honor at their funerals."

"In December, my partner of 10 years passed away due to breast cancer," Brooks recalls.

"Debbie had been an officer in the United States Navy for a time and was thereby eligible for and accorded military honors at her funeral. However there was a momentary controversy just before her funeral over just who would receive her flag… My Father, a retired Air Force officer, and Debbie’s father, a retired navy officer, quickly explained to the young officer in charge of Debs honor guard the nature of our relationship and without further discussion, at the end of Debbie’s funeral service, the officer in charge did the decent thing and presented the flag to me . . . "

"And it meant a lot to me to be told 'This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Navy in appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.' I knew this “small kindness” would mean even more to someone who had lost that loved one because they were killed in the line of duty in the service of his or her country… and what it would mean to someone not get that flag because of some arcane government policy."

"So I knew I had to interview Col. Tepfer and do this story about him."

And that story - an in-depth discussion about LGBT issues, families and the military - is now available online at Lez Get Real.

To read the full interview with Colonel Tepfer, click here.

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