Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Wreath Laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Was Mobbed

It was a gray and misty day for the wreath laying as I headed for the Tomb of the Unknown. I had another reason to visit Arlington that day, my father is there in the columbarium as he was a WWII veteran. I got there early, as is usual for me, and got the very best spot. The guard paced his route back and forth in front of the marble coffin so precisely, that deviance seemed impossible. At noon, the bell chimed the hour. A small ceremony of changing the guard took place and then another guard came out and announced “Ladies and Gentlemen, you are about to witness a wreath laying ceremony sponsored by “Knights Out” GLBT graduates of West Point. Please stand and remain standing.. Those of you in uniform please render proper salute those not please place your hands over your heart during the playing of taps.”

Above, the outgoing wreath from the Battle of the Bulge Veterans and the incoming wreath from Knight's Out are held by the Tomb of the Unknown guards.

Lt. Dan Choi and Capt., MC USNR (Ret.) Michael Rankin flanked by two guards marched out to place the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Above and below, you can see them doing just that.

Bill Wilson Photo

You can see me in the photo above, in my gray sweater, second from the left, holding up my camera.

This event was literally mobbed. Even tour guides said that this many people were rare for the Tomb of the Unknown. It was packed. So where was the press coverage?

I found it encouraging that the military allowed the event to take place at all.

Then I wanted to meet Lt. Dan Choi. So I raced up through the crowd and into the museum building, and he wasn’t there. So I headed over to the other side and almost bumped into him. He was surrounded by paparazzi and fans. Everybody wanted their photos with him! It was as if he was Elvis!

I had literally two seconds with him. I said that I was honored to meet him and asked if he was out of the military. He replied that he wasn’t taking questions.

What I wanted to tell him, if I had had the time, was that my father who was a WWII veteran, POW and hero, would have thought it a terrible waste and crime that gays were not allowed in the military. He had always been extremely open minded and raised me to be the same way. But then looking at Dan and seeing him with his supporters, I got the feeling that he already knew everything he needed to know. He didn’t need to hear my story to buoy his confidence; he knew he was right. I could feel it just meeting him. It shone out of him like a beacon. His confidence in his mission and goal is very strong. He will win this battle; just watch him!

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