2015 Veterans Wall Honorees

Mitchel Eugene Cantrell, USA

Mitch Cantrell was born in Arkansas in 1965. He served as an Army Software Analyst in Germany for over 3-1/2 years, until he tested positive for HIV in December 1988. He was immediately shipped to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. There he joined and/or facilitated several HIV protocols. He was one of the first two “lab rats” to receive injections of biological material from live HIV – GP160 – to study immune system responses. His doctor wasn’t sure the GP160 wouldn’t just advance his disease. After 3 years, when the Army went public about having HIV+ active duty personnel, Mitch volunteered to be interviewed on NBC Nightly News, in a segment broadcast around the world. He was retired on the TDRL (Temporary Disability Retirement List) in October 1991. Post-service Mitch managed greenhouses, convenience stores, and movie theaters, including in San Diego from 1995 to 2002. He passed away from HIV complications in Florida in 2007, age 41. Please welcome Ken Spindler, who will accept the honor on behalf of Mitchel Cantrell.

Diane M. “Semo” Cimochowicz, USN

Born in Jacksonville, FL and raised in Wyoming, MI, Diane “Semo” Cimochowicz joined the Navy right after high school, with full intentions of making it at least a 20-year career. After recruit training, she was assigned to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, where she was one of the first women to become an Operations Specialist (OS), a combat rating that had recently opened for women. She worked many different jobs throughout her career, and in 1978, when the Navy closed the OS rating to women, she decided to join the Reserves to continue her training until the rating was re-opened to women. After two years, she returned to active duty, and continued to advance in her naval career. She completed her Associates of Science in Management and was noted on the National Dean’s List and “Who’s Who Among Student in American Colleges and Universities, 1985.” She also has a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration and was selected as “Who’s Who Among American Women” and one of the top “2,000 American Women” in 1986. She also completed a Master’s level Total Quality Management Certificate from Hawaii Pacific University. Her military decorations and awards include: Joint Services Commendation Metal, Joint Services Achievement Metal, (3) Navy Achievement Metals, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, (5) Navy Good Conduct Metals, National Defense Service Metal with Star (Vietnam and Persian Gulf), Overseas Service with one Star and a Navy Rifle Markmanship Ribbon. Known affectionately as “Semo,” she has been a stalwart in the LGBT community, including serving as the captain of WomenMoto, a motorcycle group for lesbian women in San Diego. Semo has also rode on many Patriot Guard missions to provide protection and shelter from those who would cause harm to the loved ones of deceased service members.

Alberto Cortes, USN

Alberto had the pleasure of serving the United States Navy from 1979 to 1983. After initial training, he was assigned to a Combat Stores Ship (USS Sylvania) where he served before being accepted into Submarine School. Upon completion he was assigned to the USS Dace, a fast-attack nuclear-powered submarine, where he completed his tour of duty. Alberto moved to San Diego in 1983. Soon after arriving he joined Dignity San Diego and also started volunteering with the San Diego AIDS Information Line (one of the first responses to the AIDS epidemic in San Diego). He has worked in the field of HIV in San Diego for 28 years. For over 13 years he has served Executive Director of Mama’s Kitchen. Alberto is an advisory board member for the Institute for Nonprofit Education and Research at USD and serves on the San Diego County HIV Health Services Planning Council. And he sings second tenor with the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus.

Phyllis A. Daugherty, USAF

Phyllis A. Daugherty is a native of Johnstown, Pennsylvania whose early career included service in the U.S. Women’s Air Force Band. Following her service, she worked 30 years as Band Director for Phoenix City Schools. She also conducted the U.S. Collegiate Wind Bands for 5 years. Phyllis is a member of Women Band Directors International and was awarded the Scroll of Excellence by that organization in 1991. She has served as guest conductor for many European orchestras including the Mozartorium Symphony in St. Petersburg, Russia, and many other countries. In San Diego, she has served as Associate Conductor of the City Color Guard Band, and was a member of the Kearny Mesa Concert Band. She is a member of the Hillcrest Wind Ensemble, where she plays trumpet. She is joined tonight by many friends, including several fellow members of the Hillcrest Wind Ensemble.

Camille Emily Davidson, USAF

Camille’s military career began as an attempt to secure her future, ensuring that she wouldn’t end up (in her words) as a “bag lady.” During the course of 23-years of service, though, her career became so much more. She loved the concept of contributing to the safety of our nation, but the military also contributed to her grow in so many more ways. After retiring and returning to San Diego, Camille became a member of LAGADU (Lesbians and Gays of African Descent United) and her family of choice evolved from this very special group of people. Camille says she’s always been concerned about the divisions that exist in the LGBT community, and it has been on her goals to somehow help bridge the gap. As a past and present member of Diversionary Theatre’s Board of Trustees, Camille hopes to help implement steps to attract more people of color and other women to the theater and our community at large.

Jackie K. Jackson, USN

Jackie K. Jackson has lived in San Diego for 45-years, since being transferred here in 1970. She was discharged from the US Navy in 1975, and has been actively involved in the community ever since. Among her involvements include volunteering at The Center for the Women’s Resource Center, he committee for the Black and Brown event, and the Multicultural Fair. She on the board of the San Diego Democrats for Equality for two years, walked for Obama’s first presidential campaign, and worked on the No on Prop 8 campaign. She also worked on Toni Atkins’ assembly campaign, and volunteered for Community Housing Works 2009 Face Lift on Atkins’ team. Jackie has long volunteered for the Victory Fund; and has served on the committee for the Bayard Rustin Honors event. She’s also participated in the Women’s Drum Circle for many years. Currently, Jackie volunteers for the County of San Diego as a life coach for the Way Program, helping foster adults who have aged out of foster care. She has recently joined the board of Lambda Archives. Professionally, Jackie worked for 15-years at Edgemoor Hospital as a medical records auditor, and served as union steward at Edgemoor for six years.

Lester Lefkowitz, USA

Lester Lefkowitz, who considers himself to be “85 years young,” has had a wealth of life experiences that couldn’t all be shared in this brief introduction. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Lester has been a Boy Scout since 1942 and a Brotherhood Honor Member of the Order of the Arrow. He says his most outstanding honor was to serve in the U.S. Army from 1953 to 1955. Professionally, he worked with developmentally disabled adults at the ARC of San Diego, and later as a Disability Evaluation Analyst for the State of California. In 1987, be began a 17-year career with the County of San Diego as a Medi-Cal Determinator, then in Support Services. He is a survivor of prostate cancer, and has devoted his life to volunteering with the American Cancer Society, most often doing outreach at Pride festivals. He was an active member of SAGE San Diego when it was still in existence, and is an active member of FOG (Fellowship of Older Gays). Lester also says that music and singing have helped him in many ways to lift his spirits and others, so he contributed to the campaign to save the San Diego Opera, an organization that has been a focus of his lately. He dedicates this honor to his partner of 42 years, Dr. Arthur Uribe.

Trent Lozano-Osier, USN

A 20-year Navy Veteran, Trent Lozano-Osier, retired in 2013 with honorable service and several awards. During his career, he was deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Trent, born a “Military Brat” in Texas, grew up in Ohio and Maryland before joining the Navy shortly after High School. Trent is now married, has two children, and completed an Associate’s Degree from the University of Phoenix in 2006. He is currently attending classes at Mesa Community College towards an Accounting Degree. Trent has been an active supporter of his community bringing 20 years of experience in the Navy, including valuable administrative skills and discipline. His contributions include serving on the Board of Directors for Stonewall Citizen Patrol, advocating for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell under AVER and holding the first ever LGBT retirement ceremony at the The Center, legitimizing its use for the next generation of LGBT military veterans.

Gordon K. Wahl, USAF

Colonel Gordon K. Wahl jumped at his first opportunity to join the US Air Force at the beginning of World War II. He quickly rose to become a pilot trainer for new recruits. At this time, Air Force pilots were trained in biplanes since all the up-to-date planes were in service overseas. During his 92 years of purposeful living he began to identify himself as a gay veteran circa 1969 in the press and for university research projects. He frequently said that WW II “created the biggest bunch of drunks he’d ever seen.” A sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous, he continued to guide and sponsor gay and non-gay veterans in their recovery. When Gordon died he was 44 years sober. Thomas Vegh, who is accepting this honor on Gordon’s behalf, said that he can heartily say that Gordon’s service career dynamically informed all areas of his life. Please welcome Thomas Vegh, accepting this honor on behalf of Gordon K. Wahl.

Donna F. Walker, USN

Donna F. Walker retired Chief Photographers Mate, Aviation Warfare Specialist: PHC(AW) honorably retired after 20 years in the Navy (1979-1999). She was directly involved in significant and historic filmic documentation of Classified and Unclassified Military Missions, Educational, Newsworthy, and Scientifically significant events as a Photographer, Filmmaker, Video Director and Editor for Pacific Fleet Combat Camera, earning the title as one of the first female Crew Chiefs. Other primary commands were Fleet Imaging Command, USS Samuel Gompers (AD-37), USNS Mercy (T-AH-19) and SERE School and was selected to do special missions for Search Evasion Resistance and Escape training school, Terrorism Training, the closing of the Navy Base in the Philippines, Kobe Japan Earthquake relief efforts, Nixon funeral, Dr. Bob Ballard Sea of Cortez Scientific Research broadcast live feeds. PHC (AW) ( RET) D.F Walker is legally married to Lorna Cannon and lives in San Diego, CA. Donna is co-owner of South Bark Dog Wash, an award winning self -service dog wash, established in San Diego, California in October 2000. She is directly responsible for the co-development of a very popular product and process, “South Bark‘s Blueberry Facial” and other popular and successful private label items that are sold retail and wholesale. Donna is a published writer and authored many pet industry magazine and newspaper articles, she is considered a very credible seminar speaker within the Professional Pet Industry. She is also a Registered Veterinary Technician and has a degree in Animal Health Technology. She also holds AS and BS degrees in Liberal Arts, Film and Video, and Radio and T.V.

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