LGBT military veterans received some special recognition on Memorial Day. The first monument honoring LGBT vets to be approved by the federal government and erected on federal land was dedicated Monday at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Ill., an hour south of Chicago.
The monument is the result of an effort by American Veterans for Equal Rights, Windy City Times reports. “This is the first monument for LGBT veterans created by LGBT veterans that will be dedicated at any cemetery in the National Veteran’s Cemetery System,” Chicago-AVER founder, vice president, and secretary James Darby told the paper prior to the dedication. “I never believed anything like this could’ve happened because we’ve been discriminated against for so long in many areas of life, including the military.”
Made of black and pink granite, the monument bears a pink triangle and the bronze service seals of the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marines. It is inscribed with these words:
“Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people have served honorably and admirably in America’s armed forces. In their memory and appreciation of their selfless service and sacrifice, this monument was dedicated by Chicago Chapter American Veterans for Equal Rights ‘AVER’ ( … with liberty and justice for all ).”
“It is my great hope that all those who see this monument remember all who have served this great nation and especially our LGBT veterans … who have served from the founding of this nation,” Stanley J. Jenczyk, the Chicago-AVER board member who led the effort for the monument, said at the dedication ceremony, according to Windy City Times.
Chicago-AVER president Lee Reinhart read the names of LGBT veterans who have died, noting, “Many of these are members of AVER, and many from Illinois who served and today have a place that remembers them.” The ceremony also featured prayers by clergy representing various faiths and a performance by the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus.
Watch the entire ceremony in the video below: