2021 Veterans Wall Honorees
Michele Adair (she/her), USN
From Fresno California, Michele enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1997. She served on active duty from 1997 to 2011 under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and served openly from 2011 until retirement in 2020. June 1997, she shipped off to boot camp as an Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (ABE). Following boot camp, she was sent to Pensacola, Florida for hydraulics school for her rate. From 1997 to 2001, she was at her first command, the USS Kitty Hawk, starting in San Diego, CA, and then home ported in Yokosuka, Japan. In 2001, she left the Hawk and went to Master at Arms school in San Antonio, Texas. Following this school, she served in Bahrain as an MA from 2001 to 2002. The terrorist attacks on September 11th happened the day after she arrived in the Middle East. From 2002 to 2004, she served at NAF El Centro to finish up her time as a military police officer. From 2004 to 2009 she went back to her rate as an ABE on board the USS Ronald Reagan and became a Chief Petty Officer. In 2009, the Navy sent her to Drug and Alcohol Counseling school and she became a SARP Counselor. From 2009 to 2013, she served at Naval Medical Center San Diego. From 2013 to 2016, she served at Naval Medical Hospital, Camp Pendleton. From 2016 to 2020, she served back at Naval Medical Center San Diego where she retired.
Donald Brickel (he/him), USA (deceased)
Donald was born and raised in Buffalo, New York. He joined the U.S. Army in 1969 at the height of the Vietnam War to serve as an Army Medic. Instead of going to Vietnam, Donald was sent to serve in the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). After his service in the U.S. Army, Donald served as a civil servant for the Veterans Administration and continued to serve those who served. Unknown to Donald, and many veterans who served in the DMZ between 1968 and 1971, they were exposed to Agent Orange and the dangerous chemical contaminant dioxin. This exposure would later be linked to the cancer that ended Donald’s life, but only after he outlived his prognosis by several years. Donald was a very active and dedicated member of the Different Strokes Swim Team. He was a member of the San Diego swimming contingent to the Gay Games III in 1990 hosted by Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Swimming was a big part of Donald’s life for many years, with lifelong friends made along the way. Those who knew Donald, may never know the Army’s Core Values, but they experienced them just by knowing him – Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage.
Maria Fabunan (they/she), USA
Maria Fabunan served in the U.S. Army on active duty from 1999-2001, and the CA Army National Guard from 2002-2013 deploying to Afghanistan from 2009-2010. Fab, as their friends call them, is a Paralegal, and being an immigrant themselves, uses their experience volunteering for lawyers and organizations such as Alliance San Diego, in helping Dreamers to obtain legal citizenship in the US. As a rape survivor, Maria also volunteers for the San Diego Vet Center raising awareness around mental health and military sexual trauma. Maria strongly advocates for LGBTQ youth by raising funds and awareness for LGBTQ youth causes including advocating for the rights of LGBTQ youth and ending teen suicide and bullying. During their military career, due to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Maria faced discrimination, interrogations, investigations without proof and harassment. As a result, Maria values equality and diversity, and advocates for them within the military, the workplace, and schools.
Kelly G. Gilliland (he/him), USN
Kelly G. Gilliland joined the U.S. Navy in 1990 serving as an Operations Specialist. Stationed in San Diego on the cruiser USS Horne he also served aboard the USS White Plains, and the USNS Spica. In 1996, he was stationed at the Fleet Combat Training Center Pacific until his discharge in 1999. Once discharged, he volunteered counseling young, enlisted members of the armed services as they navigated the policy of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. While volunteering in this capacity at The San Diego LGBT Community Center, Kelly was introduced to the Golden State Gay Rodeo Association which he led for years ultimately raising over $250,000 for non-profits. Over a fifteen-year association Kelly served as Rodeo Director and President. Kelly managed many venues and activities at San Diego Pride festivals. His list includes dance stages and beer gardens among others. Kelly participated in the first group of veterans to march as a contingent in a Pride parade in 2011. The next year with the policy lifted Kelly helped lead over 500 actively serving military members, veterans, and retirees in the military contingent of the Pride Parade. The Military Color Guard, comprising of active-duty personnel that Kelly helped stand up, has presented the national colors at Pride and Center events, San Diego Padres games and at other venues from San Diego to Houston, Texas. In 2019, in a first of its kind, Kelly coordinated the first fly over of the Pride Parade of US Air Force F-15 Fighters.
Janessa Goldbeck (she/her), USMC
Janessa was born and raised in San Diego County and has built her career around creating a more equitable world for all. She is the founding principal of Sui Generis Strategies, a professional services firm that provides organizations with the tools to pass legislation and achieve meaningful change. A Marine Corps veteran, Janessa previously led teams overseas as a Combat Engineer Officer, managing engineering, logistics, and explosive ordnance disposal missions. She deployed in support of NATO operations and served as a Uniformed Victim Advocate, providing essential support to service members who experienced sexual assault. She rose to the rank of Captain and was twice awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal. After learning that some jobs in the military were closed to women, Janessa volunteered to participate in Department of Defense research on gender integration in combat arms units by attending a previously all-male infantry course. Following her experience, she co-founded No Exceptions, an advocacy campaign to repeal the discriminatory policy. In 2015, the Secretary of Defense opened all military occupations to qualified applicants, regardless of gender. Janessa is a member of Mayor Gloria’s LGBTQ Advisory Council, a co-founder of the Truman National Security Project – San Diego chapter, a member of the UCSD Chancellor’s Community Advisory Group, and a board member of The San Diego LGBT Community Center, MANA de San Diego, Equality California, and the Victory Fund Campaign Board. She lives in Talmadge with her partner Carol, their three dogs, and a small flock of hens.
Tiffany Gonzalez (she/her), USN
Tiffany Gonzalez was born and raised in the Imperial Valley and has been a resident of San Diego County since 2007. She has dedicated herself to ongoing service to the greater community for the last 15 years. After graduating from high school, Tiffany joined the Navy’s Nuclear Propulsion Program serving over seven years as an electrician. She made San Diego her home after being stationed on the U.S.S. Nimitz. Tiffany has lived with her son in Spring Valley for the last nine years where she holds elected office on the Spring Valley Community Planning Group. With a passion for education and advocacy, she works as a substitute teacher for K-12 students in the La Mesa- Spring Valley and the Grossmont Union High School districts. Tiffany is the current president of PFLAG San Diego County after serving as secretary and Regional Director for East County. In the past she served the LGBTQIA+ community as co-chair of the board for San Diego LGBT Pride. In her work with youth, she serves as a court appointed special advocate (CASA) for youth involved in foster and juvenile justice systems. She also volunteers at a confidential center that provides services for youth survivors and those at risk of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. Tiffany remains active in various local community clubs and organizations, performing advocacy for youth and their families, veterans, mental wellness, and community empowerment.
Mike Goupill (he/him), USN
In 1956 Mike Goupill was drafted and chose to serve in the U.S. Navy where he served for 6 years. After being honorably discharged in 1962, Mike started an almost 30-year career in the Aerospace industry. Mike has been a resident of San Diego since 1990, after retiring from the Aerospace industry. During their time in San Diego, Mike and his partner of 46 years, Ernie Castro, have been involved with many local nonprofit organizations. Among the San Diego organizations that Mike has been involved with over the years include Being Alive San Diego, Community AIDS Partnership North County, AIDS Foundation San Diego, and North County LGBTQ Resource Center, among others. From the start, their focus and efforts has been in response to AIDS and its impact in our community. His partner, Ernie, was a public health nurse in New York and became the HIV/AIDS Educator at the La Jolla VA in the very early days of AIDS. And Mike’s greatest passion has been Fraternity House Inc. in North County. Fraternity House’s mission is to provide warm and caring homes where vulnerable persons disabled by HIV/AIDS can receive comprehensive care and services. Mike was involved with Fraternity House for close to 30 years, retiring last year. We are grateful for Mike’s service in the U.S. Navy and for his work and dedication to our LGBTQ community.
Darrell Netherton (he/him), USA
Darrell grew up in rural Iowa, graduated from the University of Iowa in 1966, and taught high school government and economics in eastern Iowa. With the Vietnam War draft still in effect, Darrell volunteered and was accepted to the United States Navy Officer Candidate School. However, his draft board had other ideas, and since he was not ‘sworn in’ at USN OCS, he was drafted in the United States Army. After his initial training at Fort Bliss, Texas and assignment at Fort Lewis, Washington, Darrell was assigned to a signal unit in Vietnam near the Cambodian border. Darrell was later assigned to the United States Army Republic of Vietnam (USARV) Headquarters, where he performed special correspondence duty to investigate and respond to Members of Congress. After being honorably discharged, Darrell attended the University of Maryland and American University in Washington DC to earn his degree in law. He continued to work for the U.S. Congress before moving to the U.S. Merit System Protection Board. In his leadership role at the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, Darrell was able to assist countless LGBTQ candidates gain employment with ‘other than honorable’ discharges for being gay. After retirement in 2001, Darrell has continued to be involved in many local San Diego nonprofits, including San Diego Foundation for Change, Diversionary Theaters, San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus, and Lambda Archives.
Ronald Thrun (he/him), USAF
Ron joined the United States Air Force in 1949 at the age of 18 in Buffalo, New York. It was a time of relative peace, but not idle times. Ron was an airborne radio operator, where he used morse code to accomplish and meet tactical requirements of various theater commands. He was assigned to duty locations in Europe, including England and Spain, and day-to-day didn’t know which country he might be in to perform the command’s cryptologic mission. As an Airman of the United States Air Force Security Services command, his training and duties assisted the Air Force in building an early warning philosophy and a mission concentrated primarily to intercept and monitor the Soviet Union Long Range Air Force communications. After five years of service, Ron separated from the Air Force, graduated from the State University of New York with his teaching credentials, and taught for ten years in the Bay Area. After leaving teaching, Ron opened and managed various business adventures in Puerto Rico and San Diego. In 1976, he opened a dinner house and bar in Point Loma that catered to gay clientele, followed by a silk-screening business that produced many of the early year LGBTQ march and rally t-shirts. Ron is still active in the community, including Fellowship of Older Gays (FOG), Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), and the Pride Military Department, San Diego Pride.
Bobby Vannoy (he/him), USN (deceased)
Bobby Hampton Vannoy, was born June 19, 1971. A casualty of the prohibitory policy that was Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Bobby served from 1991 to 1993 until being discharged for his sexual orientation. While in the U.S. Navy he served on board the USS Reeves. Discharged from the Navy in San Diego, Bobby went into telecommunications with the company WorldXChange becoming a Senior Vice President of Corporate Operations leading over 3,000 employees worldwide. He co-founded Cytela Communications with his husband, Ken Suazo. During this time, he served on the Board of Directors of the Greater San Diego Business Association, Human Rights Campaign, the steering committees for San Diego, Palm Springs, and Orange County. Leadership means philanthropy and volunteering. Bobby was a passionate supporter of the work done by Imperial Court de San Diego. He was seen participating in and supporting Human Rights Campaign, Equality California, and The Center. Bobby was an avid gardener, growing fruits and vegetables that he and his husband shared with friends, neighbors, and the
neighborhood. Bobby will be inducted posthumously onto The San Diego LGBT Veterans Wall of Honor on November 4th.