2013 Veterans Wall Honorees
Morgan M. Hurley, USN
Chief Petty Officer Morgan M. Hurley retired from the US Navy and Navy Reserve with 22 years of service. She experienced three increasingly intrusive investigations into her personal life during her seven years of active duty, and finally left at the end of her contract with an Honorable discharge. After leaving active service, she rejoined the Navy Reserves and became a contractor at COMNAVAIRPAC and the first woman to serve on aircraft carriers. Following her work in Desert Storm, she was handpicked to help launch SALTS, a ship-to-shore logistics data-transfer system. She later installed this system aboard Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy ships. A writer at heart, she is currently following in her father’s footsteps as a newspaper editor at Gay San Diego.
Evelyn Lynn Thomas, USMC
Former Corporal Evelyn Lynn Thomas is a veteran on the Army National Guard and the USMC. She is an activist minister with the Sanctuary Project Veterans and a member of the executive board for the United Veterans Council of San Diego. She handcuffed herself to the White House fence to advocate for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT).
Ben Gomez, USN
Former Petty Officer Ben Gomez graduated from high school in 1987 and enlisted in the United States Navy. His last assignment was in San Diego, where he was involved with several San Diego LGBT community organizations and events. His strongest passion was to help repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT). He worked as a paralegal at Stokes Roberts & Wagner in San Diego for several years and recently moved back to his hometown in New Mexico.
Shaun A. Flak, USMC
Former Staff Sergeant Shaun A. Flak is a U.S. Marine Corps combat veteran who served one tour in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was meritoriously promoted twice and held duties as the Wire section NCOIC and Armory NCOIC for Kilo Battery 3rd Battalion 12th Marines. He was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for is service. He lives in San Diego and currently studies at Ashford University.
Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, USMC
Will Rodriquez-Kennedy is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served a combat deployment to Iraq in 2007. Upon returning, he was honorably discharged under DADT. Following his discharge, he advocated for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT). Currently, he serves on the San Diego County Veterans Advisory Council.
Carlita “Lee” Durand, USAF
Former Airman Third Class Carlita Durand attended basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, in 1959. After graduation from her medical field training course, she discussed applying for Officer Training with her superiors. Later that same year, she was processed for separation as a Class III homosexual and was discharged with her service characterized as General Under Honorable conditions. In 2008, her discharge was upgraded to Honorable. She volunteers at The Center for several programs, including Family Matters, and the Red Cross on issues of transgender cultural competency.
John Banvard, USAAC
Former Sergeant John Banvard enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1941 and worked in radio communications. He and his husband, Jerry Nadeau, became the first gay veterans to marry at a Department of Veterans Affairs Retirement Home in Chula Vista.
Gerard Nadeau, USA
Former Specialist Jerry Nadeau enlisted in the Army in 1966, and after initial training at Fort Hood, Texas, and advanced training in Fort Gordon, Georgia, he was assigned to a signal company. He deployed to Vietnam in early 1967 and worked in electronic communications. In 1993 he began working for the Navy as an electronics Technician. In 1993 he met his future husband, John Banvard, whom he recently married at the Department of Veterans Affairs Retirement Home.
Autumn Violet Sandeen, USN
Petty Officer First Class Autumn Sandeen (Ret.), served in the US Navy from 1980 through 2010. She is a Persian Gulf War Veteran. In 2003, she started working for the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System in La Jolla.
Jacque Atkinson, USMC
Captain Jacque Atkinson served four tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. She is one of the few women Marines in the history of the Corps to be awarded the Bronze Star for battlefield courage and bravery. She served 14 years in the US Marine Corps and recently transferred to the California National Guard.
Stephen Peters, USMC
Former Corporal Stephen Peters enlisted in the US Marine Corps after college and served for four years. Honorably discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT), he developed a passion for equality for all military families while volunteering with Service members United in the successful effort to repeal DADT. He currently lives and works in the Washington, D.C. area with his husband, a Marine Corps officer stationed at the Pentagon. He also serves on the 2013-2014 Military Spouse Advisory Council of the Military Officers Association of America.
Kristen Beck, USN
Senior Chief Kristen Beck, (Ret.), served 20 years as a Navy SEAL on 13 deployments from 1990 to 2011, earning a Bronze Star with Valor, a Purple Heart and the Defense Meritorious Service Medal. After retirement, in the spring of 2013, she announced she was starting her transition to female and was interviewed by Anderson Cooper. Her memoir, Warrior Princess: A US Navy SEAL’s Journey to Coming Out Transgender, is dedicated to those who identify as transgender but might have difficulty revealing their true selves. She uses her personal narrative to influence policy changes that would allow transgender people to serve in the military.
Joseph C. Rocha, USN
Former Petty Officer Joseph C. Rocha served two tours as a Navy canine explosive detection handler in the Persian Gulf. Selected for the Naval Academy Prep School, he revealed he was gay and was honorably discharged under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) policy. He gave sworn testimony against DADT in the LCR Federal Court challenge that later ruled it unconstitutional and unenforceable. Currently, he is a law student at the University of San Francisco.
April F. Heinze, USN
Captain April F. Heinze served on active duty in the Navy from 1982 to 2005 as a Civil Engineer Corps officer, expanding the integration of women in the non-traditional fields of construction and engineering. In 2003, she became the third woman ever promoted to Navy Captain in her specialty. Today she continues to serve in government as the Director, Department of General Services, for the County of San Diego. She served on the SLDN Military Advisory Council from 2009 to 2010 and joined the Board of Directors in 2010, fighting for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT).
Stewart Bornhoft, USA
Colonel Stewart Bornhoft, (Ret), is a West Point graduate and highly decorated combat veteran with two tours in Vietnam and 26 years of active duty service. He taught at the US Military Academy, commanded two districts in the US Army Corps of Engineers, and served as Director of Public Works in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He has been an activist for LGBT rights in the military, serving on the SLDN Military Advisory Council since 2003, lobbying legislators, speaking to community groups and the media, and writing frequently on the topic.
Kathleen A. Hansen, USN
Command Master Chief Kathleen A. Hansen, (Ret.), served from 1979 to 2010. Her Command Master Chief tours include: USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52), USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), Naval Inspector General in Washington, D.C., Navy Medicine West and Naval Medical Center San Diego. Of note, she designed and cast a bell for the Chief Petty Officer rank Centennial Anniversary and was directly involved in the groundbreaking and dedication of the Women’s Memorial in Washington, D.C.