The GLBT Community Color Guard, made up of gay and lesbian veterans, has sought permission to march in the annual Veterans Day parade before, but the answer's always been no -- until this year. With the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, an invitation to take part in tomorrow's event in downtown Denver was finally granted. Says color guard leader and thirteen-year military vet Luiza Fritz, "This is a big deal."
Color guard organizer John Kelly, an eight-year Air Force veteran, "has worked diligently to get us into the parade," Fritz notes. "He's tried it before, but they haven't allowed anything gay in the parade until this year. So we're the first gay group to march post-repeal."
This isn't the only potential breakthrough for Fritz, who was kicked out of the service in 2008 for the crime of "attempted marriage;" she and her significant other, Sarah, had entered into a domestic partnership prior to her deploying in Iraq. When we spoke to her in September, she told us she was considering legal action to get back into the military -- but now, it looks like that might not be necessary.
"I just went to the recruiters office on Tuesday," she says -- a trip made possible because of a brief, three-day layoff from her gig as a union electrician (she's already back on the job). "I took all eight inches of my files, everything I had, and the recruiter sat down and went through it. And at least right now, it looks like it's going to work."
Granted, she may have to make some adjustments. Fritz was hoping to rejoin active duty, but with the various service branches downsizing, there were no openings for someone at her rank: She left the National Guard as an E7 platoon sergeant. "But the recruiter suggested I join Army reserve in Denver. They have two E7 positions open, and if I go reserve, it'll make the transition to active duty easier -- plus, I'd get to keep my rank. I'd get back everything I lost." Page down to continue reading -- and to see a photo of the color guard.
Complications remain -- among them the fact that the her wages are currently being garnished to recoup a $15,000 bonus she was paid for reenlisting in 2007. (Because she was discharged under Don't Ask, Don't Tell, she was officially blamed for leaving the military before her commitment was up.) "The recruiter told me all recruiters have had repeal training. He's got to call and verify the recoupment policy for Don't Ask, Don't Tell victims. But as far as he knows, all the stuff they've been doing to me should stop."
If he's right, and if Fritz passes a medical screening, security clearances and more, she could be cleared to do a meet-and-greet with one of the local reserve units soon, with entry into the Army reserve to follow, she hopes. Once accepted, she would serve one weekend per month and two weeks during the summer for additional training until an active-duty position at her rank opens -- "and then I can get back in the saddle."
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For Fritz, these developments only amplify the symbolic meaning of tomorrow's parade, which gets started at 10 a.m. and will reportedly include a band, vintage cars and a piece of World Trade Center steel, followed by a fallen-heroes reading. In addition to the color guard, now eight members strong (previous iterations were half that size), "there'll be a contingent of, I think, 25 or thirty other gay and lesbian veterans marching as a group behind us," she says. "And we'll be leading one of the divisions. We'll be right out front."
After all she and her fellow veterans have been through, that's appropriate. For more details about the parade, click here.
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