they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.” — the tombstone epitaph of decorated Air Force Sgt. Leonard Matlovich, whose “medals, uniform and other personal effects make up the centerpiece of ‘Out Ranks,’ a new exhibit that documents the tortured relationship between gay troops and the U.S. military from World War II to the present.”
Matlovich, who died in 1988, was a decorated Air Force sergeant who came out to his commanding officer a month before the fall of Saigon, hoping to challenge the government’s ban on gay service members. In 1975, the idea of an openly gay combat veteran was incongruous enough to land him on the cover of Time magazine.
The goal of the show, though, is to illustrate that gays are and always have served their country, often with honor and always under the threat of dishonorable discharge. It opened on Flag Day as momentum builds in Congress for repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue” policy adopted under President Bill Clinton.
See photos and video from the exhibit HERE.