Local groups commemorate, honor America's fallen soldiers
There were many poignant moments Sept. 19 as about 200 Atlantans gathered in Piedmont Park to mark the end of the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. But few were as touching as when Danny Ingram, national president of American Veterans for Equal Rights, brought to the podium the very officer who had discharged him from the Army for being gay almost 20 years ago.
Ingram was discharged in 1994, one of the first victims of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He explained how now-retired Colonel Kelly R. Jimenez, who is Latino, called him into a meeting with him and the second in command, who was African-American.
“My granddaddy had to get his ass kicked so I could serve in the U.S. Army,” Ingram recalled Jimenez saying.
There were many poignant moments Monday evening as about 200 Atlantans gathered in Piedmont Park to mark the end of the U.S. military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. But none were more touching than when Danny Ingram, national president of American Veterans for Equal Rights, brought to the podium the very officer who had discharged him from the Army for being gay almost 20 years ago.
Sept. 20 will mark a major turning point in the fight for LGBT equality, as the military’s anti-gay “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, a law that bans gay and lesbian soldiers from serving openly, will finally be repealed. At least two local events are planned to commemorate the milestone.
Passed by Congress in 1993 and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was the basis for some 14,000 military discharges during its 18 year-history.
The repeal effort was one of the final acts of the Democratically controlled 111th Congress and fulfilled a 2008 campaign pledge from President Barack Obama.
“By ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ no longer will our nation be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans forced to leave the military, despite years of exemplary performance, because they happen to be gay,” Obama said after Congress passed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 in late December.
Although “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been officially repealed with President Barack Obama’s signature, when the repeal will actually be implemented is still not determined.
For more than 20 years, American Veterans for Equal Rights has sought fairness for LGBT people in the military and to make sure LGBT veterans have access to benefits, says Danny Ingram of Decatur. Ingram is the former Georgia AVER chapter president and now serves as the national president for the nonprofit organization.
Each year the Georgia AVER chapter holds a Taps service at Piedmont Park on Memorial Day.
“The national organization started about 21 years ago in Washington, D.C., and the Georgia chapter was formed about eight years by Jeff Cleghorn, who is now a board member for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Fund,” Ingram says.