California has become the first state in the US to officially recognize LGBTI veterans of the nation’s military.
Governor Jerry Brown passed a bill to recognize the LGBTQ Veterans Memorial at the Desert Memorial Park.
The memorial was erected by veteran organization AMVETS Post 66 in 2001, but has not had official recognition until now.
The memorial features an obelisk of mahogany granite with an engraving of an eagle, and is topped by a pink triangle.
The bottom of the memorial features a plaque, which reads: ‘This memorial is dedicated in honor of gay, lesbians, bisexual and transgender veterans who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the cherished freedom we hold dear and enjoy today.’
‘A holy place’
Tom Swann Hernandez, founder and commander of Post 66, said at a veterans’ event last month: ‘Our memorial has become a holy place for people who want closure; people who were excluded from the military funerals of their loved ones, excluded from saying goodbye and having an opportunity to gain closure,’ according to the Desert Sun.
Hernandez testified before the legislature in favor of having the memorial officially recognized by the state. A veteran of the Marine Corps and the Navy Reserve, Hernandez has been working to get the monument officially recognized for its 17-year history.
“People said, ‘Well, if you have a gay veterans memorial, then we’ll have one for left-handed veterans one day, for right-handed veterans,’” Hernandez said at the last month. ‘They tried to diminish the importance of the memorial, but we were bold and we did not give up.’
In 2014, the US National LGBT Veterans Memorial Project unveiled its design for a national monument to fallen LGBTI military personnel, which they planned to have erected in Washington DC’s Congressional Cemetery.
The official recognition also comes at a time when US president Donald Trump recently attempted to ban transgender people from serving in the US military.