2022 Veterans Wall Honorees

Beth F. Coye (she/her), USN

Commander Beth F. Coye (she/her), U.S. Navy retired, is a political science professor, author, policy maker, and activist. She is a graduate of Wellesley College, the American University School of International Service, and the School of Naval Warfare. Beth enlisted in the Navy and attended a Women’s Officer Candidate School in 1960. Periodically stationed in San Diego during her military career, she met her future partner here. As a teacher, Beth taught an International Relations course at the Naval War College and numerous courses at the intersection of sex and politics at San Diego Community College and San Diego State University. Beth served in the Navy during a time when it was impossible to separate being a woman from the homophobia that characterized much of the military. During her career, she was surveilled for suspicion of being lesbian. Despite the stressors of harassment, suspicion, and investigations, Beth stayed in the Navy for twenty years. After serving on several boards that saw sailors separated for homosexuality, she decided she could not remain in the service with her honor intact and decided to retire. Beth worked with Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an advocacy group for repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), and helped to create an effective lobbying tool for DADT’s eventual repeal with other retired military leaders. Beth is the author of the fictional memoir published in 1997, My Navy Too, about a lesbian navigating a military career and politics in Cold War America.

Bob Carney (he/him), USA

In 1968, Bob Carney (he/him) was stationed at Long Binh, the U.S. Military command center for South Vietnam. When the Tet Offensive began, everyone was called to action, and Bob, with five fellow accountants, was ordered to guard an ammo pit. They arrived in the dark with a German Shepherd and crawled through the night. Unbeknownst to Bob and his buddies, the ammo pit was wired, so when they lit cigarettes at dawn the ammo pit blew up. Only Bob – severely injured – and the dog survived. After multiple surgeries and a lengthy hospital stay, Bob finished his enlistment at Fort Lewis, Washington. After returning home to San Diego, Bob finished college and became a San Diego City Schools teacher for the next 30 years. With the growth of political power in the LGBTQ community in the 1990s, Bob and three women – two teachers, one counselor, and one nurse – organized a San Diego LGBTQ educators’ group. They each invited five friends to gather, and one person became the group’s political arm. They were soon 400 strong and within a few years had achieved partner benefits for district employees. Each school was also required to book the Gay & Lesbian Sensitivity Team, which eventually spoke to 12,000 teachers. By 2004, one of the original groups was able to secure a yellow school bus for the Gay Pride Parade, and that was the first year public school educators marched openly.

David Root (he/him), USA

SP5 David Root (he/him), United States Army, is from Seminole, Florida, and served in the Army from 1977-1980 with the 25th Infantry Band in Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. During his service, the band played for President Marcos, Republic of the Philippines, at a time when the Philippines played an important role as a security partner enabling critical U.S. military support, presence, and interoperability in Southeast Asia. He was awarded the Good Conduct medal and obtained the recognition of Expert in the hand grenade and Sharpshooter in the rifle. After discharge from the Army, David relocated to San Diego, where his rich history with the LGBTQ community began. David’s love for music and production led him to become a founding member of the San Diego Men’s Chorus, where he served as the Vice President. David was also a member of the San Diego Bugle Boys, a gay male song and dance troupe, and performed on the television show, “Puttin’ On the Hits,” winning two shows and placing second in the Grand Finals. As an active member of the Metropolitan Community Church, David has produced numerous fundraisers, organized and hosted community potlucks, and decorated the church for the holidays. David is the Founder of Petal for Patriots, delivering floral arrangements to wounded warriors at Balboa Naval Hospital and Veterans Village of San Diego. David was awarded The Stonewall Community Service Award, which recognizes up-and-coming leaders within the LGBTQ community. David is an excellent example of the Army’s motto, “This We’ll Defend.”

David Huskey (he/him), USA

SP4 David Huskey (he/him) is from Port Clinton, Ohio. David enlisted in the United States Army in 1968 while attending Bowling Green State University. After attending training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and Fort Polk, Louisiana, he was stationed in Fort Hood, Texas, as an Infantryman. After missing three rotations to Vietnam, his entire unit deployed to Di An, Vietnam. Before deploying, David had a knack for administration, so his duties in Vietnam were changed from Infantry to Clerical Administration. His responsibilities included personnel logistics and reenlistments. Upon return from Vietnam, David completed his service and was honorably discharged from the Army in 1970. Eleven years later, David and his late husband (Dr. William Beck) moved to San Diego, where they became immersed in charitable, philanthropic, and political movements to better the LGBTQ and HIV communities. When an organization or campaign needed an open house for fundraising, they knew to call David. His dedication, planning, and logistical skills benefited campaigns for notable LGBTQ leaders such as Christine Kehoe and Toni Atkins. David has been involved with The San Diego LGBT Community Center, San Diego Democratic Club, Stepping Stone of San Diego, Greater San Diego Business Association, The Imperial Court de San Diego, and the National AIDS Foundation. David has continued to live the Army motto, “This We’ll Defend,” with his continuous effort to defend and preserve his community.

Edward Conlon (he/him), USN (deceased)

HA1 Edward Conlon (he/him), “Queen Eddie,” was born on a barge near the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor in March 1928. His father was the captain of the boat, and Edward’s early life was spent living on the boat and in New Jersey. Edward enlisted in the United States Navy and served from 1946 to 1947, attending Hospital Corpsman School in Bainbridge, Maryland, and was discharged shortly after in St. Albans, New York. In San Diego, Edward was known as Queen Eddie and was a fixture of the San Diego LGBTQ community for more than three decades. Queen Eddie was a relentless social and political activist. He wrote a column in 1979 for the gay community paper “Bravo.” Later, he continued with his advice column for “Update,” a gay community newspaper where he helped readers with many wide-ranging issues. Queen Eddie was inducted into the Imperial Court de San Diego and was an active member of the LGBTQ community for many years. Queen Eddie was inducted in 2014 to the LGBT Community Wall of Honor. Demonstrating his strong connection to the San Diego community, Queen Eddie said, “I do want it stressed, that my life in San Diego has been an open column of my expressions, thoughts, and joy, and I hope our community realizes that in the act of reaching out and being touched by them in return, these years have given me more happiness than I have ever known.”

Hector Edmundo Rodriguez (he/him), USMC

Sergeant Hector Edmundo Rodriguez (he/him) enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1999 and served for 12 years of active service with various units ranging from Tank and Medical Battalions to the Office of Legislative Affairs, where he was a correspondent for the Commandant of the Marine Corps. Hector’s military career in the Marine Corps included a deployment in the Middle East, where he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for his distinguished service in Iraq. He also was awarded a Navy Commendation Medal for his service at Headquarters Marine Corps. Upon honorable discharge, Hector attended the University of the District of Columbia in Washington, D.C., for two years before returning to San Diego. Sergeant Rodriguez continues to focus on service by working as a cemetery caretaker at the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, where he helps to bury those who served our country. Hector is also committed to helping those seeking recovery from substance abuse and chronic homelessness by volunteering and participating in health events at Veteran’s Village of San Diego, and substance abuse rehabilitation programs at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in La Jolla and Submarine Bases Point Loma. Hector was most recently honored at the annual Recovery Happens event at Liberty Station where he shared his experience, strength, and hope in recovery from a veteran’s perspective. Hector exemplifies the U.S. Marine Corps motto “Semper Fidelis” – “Always Faithful.”

Houston Burnside, Jr. (he/him), USAF (deceased)

Sergeant Houston Burnside, Jr. (he/him) was a U.S. Air Force veteran, son, brother, husband, friend, member of the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) of San Diego, a man of peace, and a man of God. Houston was from Pomona, California, and died on October 8, 2018, in San Diego. According to Reverend Dan Koeshall, Senior Pastor at MCC, “Integrity, compassion, and deep concern for others are words that describe Houston Burnside’s life.” In a wheelchair for more than half his life, Houston was never bitter nor saw himself as a victim; instead, he was always looking for ways to serve others – veterans, parishioners at MCC, and the greater San Diego LGBT community. With the Vietnam War in high gear in 1971, Houston enlisted in the U.S. Air Force at age 19 to avoid being drafted. Stationed in Barksdale, Louisiana, he served for three years as a Heating Systems Specialist and was honorably discharged as a Sergeant in 1974. A mistake during lung surgery in 1977 left Houston a quadriplegic – with movement in his hands and limited movement in his arms. Undaunted and determined, Houston earned degrees in Political Science and Philosophy from San Diego State University and, in 1984, became an ordained minister. Houston was a Hospital Chaplain in San Diego for more than ten years and a Staff Pastor at MCC for 30 years. He was involved with MCC’s annual participation in the Pride Parade and Festival and was an active member of the Greater San Diego Business Association. Houston spent his life in service to others. Houston and Bruno Giebultowski were together for 33 years and were married for four years.

John Acosta (he/him), USN

DC1 John Acosta (he/him) is from El Paso, Texas, and enlisted in the United States Navy in 1972 during the Vietnam War draft. John served in the Navy from 1972-1994 as a Damage Controlman. His studies and duties included firefighting and fire system inspections. John ensured the maximum reasonable assurance was met to prevent injury to personnel in submarine operations. John served in pre-commissioning units for both the USS Chandler and USS Rushmore. After retiring from the Navy, John attended San Diego State University to become a gerontologist and continued his passion for teaching at Southwestern College in Chula Vista, recently retiring. John volunteers with Bienestar to help respond to the health disparities and lack of HIV/AIDS resources available to the senior population in the Latino/a/x LGBTQ community. John is passionate about LGBTQ senior advocacy, especially in the South Bay Latino/a/x community. John served on the San Diego Pride Board of Directors for two terms, participated in organizing Latin Pride in 2001, petitioned AARP to discuss LGBTQ topics and provide information in Spanish-language publications, and was the first gay Commissioner for the Veterans Commission and a member of the Commission on Aging in Chula Vista, serving two terms in each. AARP sponsored a senior rest zone at the Pride Festival through John’s advocacy. Now in retirement, John focuses on the unhoused senior community and their pets. John uses his years of advocacy to bring ageism awareness to community service providers and manages a pet food distribution. This service contributes to the emotional well-being of community members experiencing isolation and homelessness.

Lark Bearden (she/her), USN

Lieutenant Lark Bearden (she/her), United States Navy, grew up as a Navy dependent before serving as an officer for 13 years. Lark was a Navy Nurse during the Vietnam War and subsequently was the Head Nurse in the Operating Room at Balboa Naval Hospital, San Diego. After active duty, Lark continued her service in the Navy Reserve and earned her MBA in Healthcare Administration at San Diego State University. Her prior active duty and reserve duty experience setting up field hospitals earned her a call back to active duty during Desert Shield/Storm. After being honorably discharged, Lark continued in the health field as a nurse and finally as a hospital administrator in charge of hospital procurement for Mercy Hospital San Diego. Lark is a community-oriented veteran, involved with the San Diego Women’s Chorus and the San Diego Pride Military Department. Her skills with logistics and planning help to ensure a successful San Diego Pride Military Department Pool Party and the upcoming Service Members in Drag program. Lark also served in the 2021 Stonewall Rally Color Guard, proudly presenting the USN flag. Lark shows her exceptional charitable spirit by volunteering with organizations such as Mercy Hospital Hillcrest, Garden Steward in Balboa Park, Voices of Our City, The Diversionary Theater, Cygnet Theater, and The San Diego LGBT Community Center. Lark has continued to live the USN Core Values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment, building a foundation of trust and leadership upon which our community’s strength is based and victory is achieved.

Michael Donovan (he/him), USAF

Airman First Class (A1C) Michael Donovan (he/him), United States Air Force, is from Dayton, Ohio. Michael served in the Air Force from 1980-1982 as a Computer Operator. Michael attended Air Force training at Lackland AFB, Texas, and Keesler AFB, Mississippi, stationed at Osan Air Base, Republic of South Korea, and Offutt Air Base, Nebraska. Michael was discharged for being gay. He met his now-husband, Donald, in Omaha and moved several times in the following decades, including their initial brief stay in San Diego, all due to Michael’s career in information technology. Michael used his training to advance through many acquisitions to become the Chief Technology Officer for numerous industries, including the defense industry, and was awarded five patents. After retiring in 2018 and returning to San Diego, Michael continues his activism promoting equality in personal and professional settings. He does this by promoting and envisioning an HIV community where social support is vital, isolation is rare, HIV prejudice and discrimination are eliminated, and community members living with HIV live healthy, fulfilling lives. Michael serves on the Board of Directors for POZabilities as Volunteer and Education Director and Community Liaison. Michael has also served on the San Diego County HIV Planning Committee and the UCSD AVRC Advisory Board. For Michael, selfless service is a calling, a daily commitment that takes energy, dedication, and sacrifice of “Service Before Self” that never ends after an airman takes the Oath of Enlistment.

Michael W. Klein (he/him), USN

Michael W. Klein Sr. (he/him) took the oath of enlistment on August 30, 1971, as an operation specialist formerly known as a radarman. Seaman Klein completed basic training, and after radarman “A” schooling, received orders to Guantanamo Naval Base, Cuba. With a team of radarmen, he monitored surface and air radar stations to protect the base from any sources. In June 1973, Seaman Klein reported to the USS Myles C Fox and was promoted to a 3rd Class Petty Officer (CPO). In February 1975, he reported to the Port of San Diego to the USS Fanning, an anti-submarine warfare naval craft. He was promoted to 2nd CPO and became an anti-submarine air controller. In June 1976, Michael graduated from radarman “C” school in Point Loma. In January 1977, he reported to the Naval Ocean System Center (NOSC) at Naval Base Point Loma. Petty Officer Klein worked on experimental radar systems and in 1977 was promoted to 1st CPO. In 1978, Michael was honorably discharged. Petty Officer Klein continued his service to the greater San Diego County community. In 1997, he co-founded the San Diego Bird Festival along with his husband, both field biologists. They established the festival to promote nature-based tourism in the region. In addition, Michael held officer positions in the Bears of San Diego, The Fellowship of Older Gays (FOG), and is an advisor for San Diego Pride, advocating to provide accessibility for community members with disabilities so they can attend the annual Pride festival.

Midori Hirakawa Sabanal (she/her), USA

Midori Sabanal (she/her) served in the US Army from June 1975 through May 1982. She successfully navigated assignments in the continental United States and Cold War Germany. Her assignments included transporting needed supplies throughout West Germany. While assigned to the 1st Battalion 58th Infantry, she oversaw various logistic duties that provided on-the-spot support to combat units. Midori underwent desert training and attended the demanding winter training course at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin. She is the recipient of the Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, and the prestigious Driver and Mechanics Badge awarded to soldiers for superior attention to the maintenance and operation of their combat and combat support vehicles. Midori has been active in the transgender community since 2000 and continues to be a liaison for the API community. For the past seven years, Midori has been working with the VA’s trans support group as a group leader, offering supportive, caring, and encouraging camaraderie to other transgender peers.

Thomas Carey (he/him), USN (deceased)

Thomas Carey (he/him) served in the United States Navy from 1964-1968. Thomas was from Goldsboro, North Carolina, and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Broadcast Journalism from the Johnson C. Smith Community University in Charlotte, North Carolina. After his discharge in 1968, Thomas stayed in San Diego and in 1972, he attended the first meeting of the Planning Committee and became the treasurer; the Planning Committee would develop into the Gay Center for Social Services and eventually The San Diego LGBT Community Center. Thomas was recognized during the inaugural induction ceremony for the 2004 Community Wall of Honor. Thomas was an early Black activist and a great example of USN’s Core Values of “Honor, Courage, and Commitment,” both before and after his enlistment. As the civil rights movement of the 1960s spread throughout the nation, Thomas participated in “sit-ins” at lunch counters and in other public places to protest segregation. As treasurer for the Gay Center, Thomas planned and prepared many fundraisers to fund initial programs, including the Men’s Self Development Program. Thomas would lead “rap groups” that focused on issues affecting gay men, such as coming out, coping with relationships and sexual problems, and self-confidence. Thomas and his partner, Bernie Michels, at the time worked with a local attorney to formally incorporate and obtain tax-exempt status for the Gay Center.

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