Benjamin F. Dillingham & Bridget Wilson LGBT Veterans Wall of Honor Inductee Biographies
Benjamin F. Dillingham, III
Benjamin F. Dillingham, III served as a member of the Marine Corps Association, the United States Armor Association and the Navy League. He was a decorated combat veteran (Vietnam) of the United States Marine Corps, where he attained the rank of Captain and received the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” and Army Commendation Medal. Among his many community awards, he was named the LGBT Veteran of the Year in 2007. He was a graduate of Harvard College and the Harvard University Business School. Dillingham passed away Nov. 16, 2017. Visit the Benjamin F. Dillingham, III Memorial Page on Facebook.
Bridget Wilson is a veteran of the enlisted ranks of the U.S. Army Reserve. She served as a judge advocate with the California State Military Reserve from 1999-2009 and has been a consulting counsel for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network since 1994. Ms. Wilson is a member of American Veterans for Equal Rights, the National Guard Association of California and AmVets. She has taught Military Justice as an adjunct faculty member at Thomas Jefferson School of Law (2007).
Robert Bettinger, US Army
Robert Bettinger enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1946 just before the end of World War II. After basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, Robert was assigned to the 1st Calvary Division, Artillery, and stationed in Kamakura, Japan. As dependent families moved to Japan, Robert was assigned to teach children in the third and fourth grades. He attained the rank of Technician Fifth Grade and received the following awards: World War II Victory Medal; Army of Occupation Medal, Japan; and the honorable service lapel button.After his discharge in 1948, Robert pursued his plans to become an Episcopal priest. While fulfilling his duties as a priest, husband and father of four children, Robert was also an activist for human rights, including emerging women’s rights (NOW), civil rights (MLK) and the emerging LGBT right movement. By the time Robert moved to San Diego in 1998, he was no stranger to the LGBT community, having lived in the San Francisco Bay area for 20 years, where he obtained his doctorate degree, experienced Harvey Milk’s assassination and lived through the AIDS crisis. Once in San Diego, Robert became actively involved in the LGBT community, volunteering his time and holding various leadership positions in the following organizations; the gay and lesbian Sierra Club; Rakes and Blades — an LGBT gardening club; San Diego County’s Aging and Independence Services program, focusing on LGBT services; the Senior Affairs Advisory Board; the Senior Housing Committee; and various groups at the San Diego LGBT Community Center; among many other involvements. Robert is also known in the community for his support of people as they go through life transitions. At 89 years young, Robert is still making a difference by working with geriatric nurses to meet a goal of excellence in senior care.
Justin Brent, US Army
Enlisted in the US Army July 29, 1963 and received Basic Training at Fort Knox, Ky. Worked as a General’s Orderly for four star General Andrew P Omeara in Heidelberg, Germany. Achieved rank of Specialist Fourth Class. Received an Honorable Discharge July 31, 1966. Participated in the first Gay Pride March in San Diego starting my gay rights activism. Involved in the No on 6 Brigg’s Initiative Campaign. Created The Gay Academic Union San Diego Chapter, (Frontrunners became an offshoot of GAU) created Network to help facilitate communication between LGBTQ organizations, ran the Gay Center’s Speaker’s Bureau, on the board of the United San Diego Election Committee (USDEC), on the board of the San Diego Democratic Club with Brad Truax.
Wayne Dietz, US Navy
For Wayne Dietz Jr., joining the Navy in October 1975 was his ticket to freedom; a ticket out of the steel mills of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and a ticket to his sexual identity. He attended boot camp and Hospital Corpsman “A” School at Great Lakes, Illinois. When Wayne received his first set of orders to 3rd Field Service Support Group, which included a 13-month tour in Okinawa, Japan, he wanted to cry. He first underwent Field Medical Service training at Camp Pendleton in June 1976 and then it was off to Japan. Despite his initial fears, Wayne blossomed in Okinawa. He was awarded Sailor of the Quarter and subsequently nominated for Sailor of the Year. He rotated back to Camp Pendleton until May 1978, when it was time to report to Portsmouth, Virginia for urology school. In February 1979, he again headed back to Camp Pendleton, this time as leading petty officer of the Naval Hospital’s urology clinic. He was again awarded Sailor of the Quarter and soon earned the rank of first class petty officer in 1981, six years after enlisting. Wayne’s last tour, a four-year stint as a senior instructor at Naval School Health Sciences San Diego’s urology school, was the most rewarding. Since leaving active duty in 1986, Wayne has continued his career in urology. He was also able to get even more involved in the local LGBT community. He is a founding member of Bears San Diego; he spent many years with the San Diego leather community; he was also involved for many years in the Imperial Court de San Diego, holding titles Empress 25 Roxie Bleu and Emperor 30 Wayne; and as a longtime board member, he mentored many other titleholders. He was also an active member of the local Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Through each of these organizations, Wayne has raised money for the local San Diego LGBT community for over 30 years.
Roger Greenseth, US Army
Originally from Superior, Wisconsin, Roger Greenseth signed up for the draft at age 16, and right after high school, he was called to duty with the U.S. Army in September 1957. Enlisting as an infantryman, he attended basic training at Fort Carson, Colorado, then transferred to Combat Engineering School at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, for more training. Reassigned to Fort Carson, he was tasked with maintaining officer personnel records. Roger’s Commanding Officer wanted him to apply to West Point for a direct commission, but he declined. After leaving the military in 1959, Roger entered the University of Wisconsin. It wasn’t long after the first term that he and a friend were turned in for being gay, arrested and kicked out of school. Shortly after that, Roger knew he needed to move to San Francisco. It was there that he designed, developed, tested and implemented a computer program for numerous government healthcare systems. One day while commuting to work, Roger met his partner Donald on the San Francisco trolley. Donald said to a friend (about Roger), “That will last me the rest of my life.” They met again later in the workplace, and it was love at first sight. Roger and Donald moved to San Diego in 1985, spending 43 years together before Donald lost his battle with cancer in 2005. Roger was very active in the LGBT civil rights movement from 1960-1985. Soon after arriving in San Diego, Roger quickly became a pillar in the local LGBT recovery community and has counseled and mentored hundreds of people on life skills, mental illness, recovery, and addiction. He volunteered with San Diego Pride from 1990-98, holding various positions. From 1990-2014, he served on the board of the Live and Let Live Alano Club (LLLAC). Still an active member of LLLAC, Roger continues to lead weekly discussion groups on recovery.
Nic Herrera, US Army
Born and raised in San Diego, Nichole “Nic” Herrera enlisted in the California Army National Guard in 2006, despite knowing that “don’t ask, don’t tell” was in effect and she would have to serve in silence; not only for being gay but also for being transgender. In October 2007, Nic’s military police unit was activated for FireStorm 2007 in San Diego County, responsible for conducting checkpoints, roving patrols and canvasing burned-out areas for looters. In May 2009, Nic’s unit deployed to Bagram, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, operating the detention facility in charge of the care, custody, and control of males detained under suspicion of terrorist activity. In August 2010, Nic returned stateside to the U.S./Mexico border for 18 months under Joint Task Force Sierra, assisting Customs and Border agencies scanning for illegal activity and undocumented immigrants crossing the border. Back in San Diego in July 2011, Nic participated in the first-ever active duty LGBT military contingent to march in a Pride Parade, while “don’t ask, don’t tell” was still in place. Nic shared her story through interviews with various media outlets. In 2013, she participated in the StoryCorps OutLoud series, discussing her service under “don’t ask, don’t tell,” now on record at the Library of Congress. Nic left the Guard in 2014 as a Specialist (SPC/E4). In 2016, Nic and her fiancé have joined the American Military Partner Association and are active in several other charitable and social/civil rights organizations in support of LGBT+, veterans, and animals. Nic has a bachelor’s degree in justice administration and a master’s in public administration. She is currently a civilian federal employee with the Navy and hopes to continue this work, despite the Trump Administration recently argued in court that laws regarding discrimination in the workplace do not apply to LGBT people in federal jobs.
Zander Keig, US Coast Guard
Zander Keig is a proud veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, serving from October 1986 to November 1988, attaining the rank of fireman. He was stationed at Small Boat Station San Diego, serving as a firefighter and Emergency Medical Technician. Now a licensed clinical social worker, Zander currently works as a clinical case manager on the transgender care team with Navy Medicine West. He recently received the designation as a certified advanced social work case manager from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and has been recognized as a transgender subject matter expert by the NASW, the Veterans Administration, and Navy Medicine West. This year he also joined the clinical team at Coaching Through Chaos and was appointed chair of the NASW’s National Committee for LGBT Issues. He’s a member of the LGBTQ stakeholder workgroup of the California Health & Human Services Network, and a board member for the nonprofit Transgender American Veterans Association. Since 1987, Zander has conducted over 400 public presentations on issues related to diversity, nonviolence, cultural humility, trauma-informed care, and conflict resolution. He is co-editor of three books: “Letters for My Brothers — Transitional Wisdom in Retrospect,” published in 2011; “Manning Up — Transsexual Men on Finding Brotherhood, Family & Themselves,” published in 2014; and “Manifest — Transitional Wisdom on Male Privilege,” published in 2016. He is also co-author of various articles, including “Transgender Veterans Are Inadequately Understood by Health Care Providers,” published in the May 2014 issue of Military Medicine Journal; and “Addressing the needs of transgender military veterans: better access and more comprehensive care,” which appeared earlier this year in the Transgender Health journal. Zander has also appeared in several documentary films, including the award-winning feature-length film, “TRANS.” A community-builder and leader who is committed to social justice for LGBT people, Zander is resolutely focused on making sure we can all be our best selves.
Robert John Leyh, US Navy
Robert J. Leyh, a native of Rochester, New York, entered the U.S. Navy in May of 1993. Bob’s tours of duty included Yeoman “A” School in Meridian, Mississippi; U.S. Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico; the submarine tender USS Simon Lake (AS 33), home-ported in La Maddalena, Italy; and Helicopter Tactical Wing, Pacific Fleet, at Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego. Bob served 6 ½ years in the Navy and was honorably discharged in December 1999, having attained the rank of Petty Officer Second Class (E-6). Upon his separation from the Navy, Bob became active in the San Diego’s LGBT community. His involvement has included Front Runners and Walkers, an LGBT running club; Special Delivery, a meal delivery service for people debilitated by AIDS; San Diego LGBT Pride; Scouting for All; and AIDS Walk San Diego. He is also the former vice president of San Diego Democrats for Equality. Bob has a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s in public administration from National University. Bob and his partner Bill McClain, a school teacher in the San Diego Unified School District, celebrated 24 years together on Oct. 1, 2017.
Judith Ann Litzenberger, US Navy
Judith “Jude” Litzenberger joined the Navy during the Vietnam era in April 1975 and continued to serve through the Persian Gulf War, rising in rank from non-rated seaman to Lieutenant Commander, and holding dual subspecialties in tactical communications and training school management.
Jude’s career was full of “firsts.” She was the first woman to serve on the deployable amphibious staff of Naval Beach Group Two at Little Creek, Virginia; the first enlisted Navy drug and alcohol counselor to earn a master’s degree (psychology); the first woman selected for Tactical Action Officer training; the first Navy officer to complete her master’s degree in Education and Training Management Systems; the first woman not assigned afloat to complete Surface Warfare Officer qualifications; the first woman to qualify as Fleet Telecommunications Operating Center Watch Officer; the first woman to serve on the Third Fleet Battle Staff during a fleet-wide exercise; and the first woman to command a Navy firefighting school. In 1995, Jude retired from the Navy and entered law school at USD, graduating in 1998. After several years of building her skills, she started her own practice in 2001, serving active duty service members in both military and criminal courts. In 2007, she collaborated with a grassroots veterans group concerned that many were returning from war without an adequate safety net, and led the team in the creation of the first San Diego Veterans Treatment Court. In 2011, she founded the nonprofit California Veterans Legal Task Force, which continues to expand veterans treatment courts throughout California. She worked to enact laws for veterans who suffered from service-related mental health conditions, obtaining them court-monitored treatment instead of incarceration, and upon successful completion, having their cases dismissed and records cleared.
Jude raised thousands of dollars for the San Diego LGBT Community Center during the battle for marriage equality. She’s been involved with Metropolitan Community Church since 1991 and is currently a denominational official and network leader of the western U.S., which serves 38 MCC churches from Mississippi to Hawaii.
John Lockhart, US Navy
John Lockhart entered the Navy in Los Angeles on January 22, 1951, and attended boot camp in San Diego. He was assigned to Naval Base Guam, where he earned his Personnelman rating. He then served on a Pearl Harbor-based destroyer escort, and aboard the aircraft carrier USS Point Cruz. In 1953, the Point Cruz was responsible for transferring United Nations troops by helicopter from the ship’s anchorage in Inchon Bay to the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas. He left the Navy in December 1954 as a PNSN (E-3). Post-Navy, John graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. in 1959 with a B.S. in Foreign Service, aiming for a diplomatic career that was not meant to be. With the McCarthy era witch hunts to find and fire every homosexual in U.S. government employ, John pivoted and built a career in legislative advocacy for public education. In 1977, John returned to San Diego as a legislative advocate for the San Diego County Office of Education. He retired in 1996. An athlete of sorts, John completed 33 marathons at age 50-plus; earned gold and silver medals running in the quadrennial Gay Games; and has enjoyed skiing worldwide. At home in Hillcrest, John supports LGBT community organizations financially, participates and volunteers, and has fun doing it. He runs the monthly “team trivia” during The Center’s monthly Guys, Games and Grub night, has been a longtime volunteer with San Diego Pride and supports Diversionary Theatre. John dedicates this LGBT Wall of Honor award to the memory of his high school boyfriend, Don, killed by enemy fire during his Army unit’s withdrawal from the Chosin Reservoir, North Korea, December 1950.
Craig Alan Morgan, US Navy
Upon graduation from high school in 1966, Craig Morgan enlisted in the Navy. He attended boot camp at Recruit Training Center, San Diego, and then moved across the base for Basic Electronics and Engineering School and Radioman “A” School. Craig was then assigned to the USS Constellation (CVA-64), an aircraft carrier home-ported in San Diego. He did two WestPac tours to the Gulf of Tonkin; from April to December 1967, and June 1968 to February 1969. During the second tour, he had the honor of meeting the Commander in Chief, President Lyndon Johnson. Craig was reassigned to Camp Pendleton in 1969 for survival training, in preparation for his next duty station in Cam Rahn Bay, Vietnam, where he achieved the rank of Radioman third class and served out the remainder of his enlistment. He received the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal (twice) and the Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon three times. The Navy enabled him to take leave in Hawaii, the Philippines, Japan, and Hong Kong, which instilled in him a love of travel. Following his discharge in 1970, Craig settled in San Diego, becoming active in the emerging LGBT community. He’s been involved with the Imperial Court de San Diego since its inception 45 years ago. He was elected Empress 5 Morgana in 1976 and Emperor 11 Craig in 1982. He also served on its board of directors as special advisor to numerous monarchs and has mentored various titleholders. Craig taught himself how to be an auctioneer, which allowed him to lead numerous auctions throughout the 1980s, ’90s, and 2000s, raising money and launching many LGBT community organizations that still serve us today. Craig and his late husband, Jon VanSciver, were the second couple to be married in San Diego County in 2008.
Joanna Gasca, US Air Force
Joanna Gasca enlisted as an Administrative Specialist in the U.S. Air Force in August 1983. Her first assignment was to the 544th Strategic Intelligence Wing, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. Upon transferring, she was awarded the Wing’s Hawkeye Award, the first enlisted member to receive that honor. In 1993 she returned to Air Force Reserve Recruiting as a Line Recruiter San Diego, attached to March Air Base. She was then selected for the fast track leadership program and moved to Air Force Reserve Recruiting Headquarters at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. Her subsequent orders took her to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona and a return to March Air Reserve Base. Despite being on active duty, Joann got involved with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, donating both time and money, even using their services when a member of her softball team threatened to out her to the Air Force for being gay. She marched proudly in the San Diego Pride parade before and since the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” In 2013 she participated in StoryCorps OutLoud, one of 20 pre-selected San Diego LGBT veterans who had served in the military prior to and during “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Joanna shared the challenges the oppressive ban had on her lengthy career and the recorded series is now on record for posterity at the Library of Congress. In 2013, Joanna decided to stay one last tour, taking a Flight position in the Northern Recruiting Squadron, in Buffalo, New York. She officially retired in September with 33 consecutive years of service.
Dennis Howard, US Navy
Dennis Howard was raised in Chula Vista but attended school in San Diego. As a young man, the Selective Service draft still existed and as a result, his student deferment ended while in graduate school. Dennis followed the lead of a friend and joined the Navy, raising his right hand to be sworn into service the same day that President Kennedy was assassinated. He was sent to Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island, and after commissioning was assigned to teach at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Bainbridge, Maryland. While in Maryland, the Vietnam War began, but Dennis was fortunate to remain there teaching for his entire four-year enlistment. After the Navy he was able to use his teaching experience to get a job at San Diego Mesa College, and later City College and UC San Diego. When Dennis’ partner became ill with AIDS, he began volunteering at the food bank, then the AIDS Foundation and Mama’s Kitchen. When his partner died of the disease, he took early retirement from the Community College District and started full-time volunteering at the San Diego LGBT Community Center, Diversionary Theater, San Diego Pride and the Lambda Archives and still volunteers regularly with The Center.
Arthur J. Kelleher, US Navy
Captain Arthur Kelleher was born and raised in Binghamton, New York. He was commissioned as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy Medical Corps in 1976 following his graduation from the University of Scranton. He went on to earn his doctor of medicine from Georgetown University School of Medicine in 1980 and after an internship at Naval Medical Center, San Diego, he reported to Pensacola, Florida, where he was later designated a Naval Flight Surgeon and received his wings in 1982. The next four years saw multiple squadron deployments to Rota, Spain and Keflavik, Iceland, with carrier airwings aboard the USS Forrestal and USS Carl Vinson. In 1983 he was honored as the Navy and Marine Corps Flight Surgeon of the Year. He later finished an anesthesiology residency, again in San Diego, before deploying in support of Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. In 1991 he transferred from active duty to the active reserves and retired in 2000, having attained the rank of Captain. Following his retirement he served for five years on the board of directors of Servicemember’s Legal Defense Network, which spearheaded the ultimate repeal of DADT, and built them one of the largest donor bases in the country from the San Diego area. He is the lead producer of the 2014 film “Burning Blue” written and directed by his close friend David Greer whom he met while stationed in Pensacola. It is a work of historic fiction set in the pre DADT era about two fighter pilots who fall I love, the humiliating investigation that ensues once they are discovered and the affect it has on their fellow aviators and friends. Dr. Kelleher is full time private practice in San Diego and is the president of Balboa Anesthesia Group.
William E. Kelly, US Air Force
Raised in Morris, Illinois, Bill Kelly later graduated from Northern Illinois University at DeKalb, before joining the Air Force during the Vietnam War. As a medic and surgical technician from 1970–75, Bill served his time at Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Michigan, the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, and Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. On his off-duty time Bill earned a masters degree. Once Bill honorably completed his Air Force service, he initially returned to his hometown, but moved to Chicago in 1977, where he earned emergency medical technician level I and II and a physician’s assistant licenses caring for inmates at Chicago’s Cook County Jail while pursuing an MBA. He soon found himself caring for friends suffering for what was then called “the gay plague,” eventually known as AIDS. In Chicago Bill also met his husband Bob Taylor; they have been together since 1979 and the couple moved to San Diego in 1997. While Bill has worked with nearly every LGBT-affiliated nonprofit in the city since then, it is his work advocating for seniors, and LGBT seniors specifically, that has affording him various honors. He is currently working as an outreach consultant to the San Diego LGBT Community Center regarding their senior housing project.
Scott P. Lawry, US Navy
After 20 years of honorable and dedicated military service as a Pharmacist in the United States Navy, Scott P. Lawry sought out an opportunity to not only continue to serve the active duty, veterans and their dependents at the Naval Medical Center, but to serve the community he lives. On what some would call a stroke of luck, Scott met Alberto Cortes, the Executive Director of Mama’s Kitchen (and previous year’s LGBT Veterans Wall of Honor inductee), to get involved with the organization that provides nutritious food to people with illnesses in need. Scott started as a meal delivery volunteer, and after his first route, he felt magically connected to the San Diego LGBT community in a way that he already felt connected to the Navy community. He immediately signed up to do a regular delivery route and now has a new set of friends in his regular Friday delivery clients. Scott has also served on the board of Mama’s Kitchen since 2014, and his made it his civic duty to be a philanthropic leader to support the organization’s work. He has been named Volunteer of the Year at Mama’s Kitchen; and has also been honored by the American Military Partners Association for his dedicated service as a civilian employee.
Edwin O. Lohr, US Air Force
Edwin O. Lohr was born in a very small town in Iowa, which bore the family name, Lohrville. He was raised on a farm and knew at a very young age that he would answer the call to serve our country. Edwin’s father Richard was a bombardier on the B24 Liberator. Edwin joined the U.S. Air Force in 1975 in the personnel field and immediately after boot camp he went to his first duty station at Scott Air Force Base, just outside of St. Louis and headquarters of the Military Airlift Command. His next set of orders were to Yokota Air Base outside of Tokyo, Japan. At both duty stations, Edwin served in the honor guard and was very involved in base activities. While in Yokota, Edwin was appointed Base Ambassador and at the completion of his term, he chose to remain in Tokyo and teach English. Once his visa expired, Edwin returned to the U.S., relocating with his brother to San Diego, where his great uncle, a retired Navy officer, had already settled. Edwin soon started a new career in tourism, working with the Convention and Visitors Bureau for many years, and later founding the San Diego Professional Tour Guide Association. “You can never out-give of yourself,” Edwin said he learned from his parents and it shows; he has been a very active volunteer member of his local community organizations, Stonewall Citizen’s Patrol, Mama’s Kitchen, San Diego Pride, an original member of American Veterans for Equal Rights, among many others.
Sean R. Redmond, U.S. Air Force
Sean Redmond was born and raised in the small community of Omak, Washington. From an early age, he was taught civic pride and service toward the community. He is an Eagle Scout and vigil member of the Order of the Arrow. He continued his commitment to service with the U.S. Air Force, where he served 20 years in law enforcement and human resource development. After retirement in 2009, he moved to San Diego where he pursued his vision of working to improve and being part of a bigger community family. In particular, his desire is to serve the LGBT veteran community. As the modern LGBT military community changes, he has been there to provide support, resources and education through such programs as the San Diego Unified School District Youth Advocacy Program. Using his law enforcement experience and community policing desire, he is very active in the Stonewall Citizen’s Patrol. As the newly appointed executive director, he can continue his drive to educate and provide community safety to the diverse neighborhoods of Hillcrest, North Park, and University Heights. Sean has a bachelor of science in criminal justice administration/cyber crime security and continues to pursue educational opportunities in public administration and youth advocacy.
Sean M. Sala, US Navy
Sean Sala served under the discriminatory “don’t ask, don’t tell” directive for six years while in the U.S. Navy. He served three combat tours on the USS Dubuque as an Operations Specialist, attaining the rank of Petty Officer Second Class. While there, he was awarded the Iraqi Campaign Medal for his service off of the coast of Iraq — guarding Iraqi Oil platforms. He also assisted in operations that saved a sinking Coast Guard cutter in the North Arabian Gulf; oversaw the enforcement of United States air supremacy in the Middle East; and provided support during the pirate takeover of the Magellan Star off the coast of Somalia, where he helped guide Huey and Cobra pilots in tactical positions to retake the ship. He and his crew were awarded a Meritorious Unit Commendation ribbon for the operation. Sean was one of the public faces of the first ever full military contingent to march openly in the San Diego Pride parade in 2012 before “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal. During this time, Sean came out on the national news, putting his career in jeopardy. The following year, Sean successfully led the way in pushing the Pentagon to authorize the wear of military uniforms in a Pride parade for the first time. He served on the national leadership committee of Servicemembers United, assisted in the transition of the Campaign for Military Partners to the American Military Partner Association, and served as a national organizer of the Military Freedom Coalition, which successfully lobbied for the repeal of the transgender ban in the U.S. military.
Jeff Underwood, US Navy
Jeff Underwood was born in the small town of Cahokia, Illinois, in 1979. Thanks to a Navy ROTC scholarship, Jeff was able to pursue his passion for documentary filmmaking by attending the USC School of Cinematic Arts, where he graduated with a bachelors in cinema production in 2001. Although he served as a Surface Warfare Officer, his proudest accomplishments were the three promotional videos he produced for his first ship, the USS Elliot. For Jeff, living under the scrutiny of “don’t ask don’t tell” proved to be the hardest part of his four years of ROTC (1997-2001) and his six years of military service (2001-2007). Having that added stress to his daily existence gave him a new appreciation for being out of the closet after he was honorably discharged. In 2012, Jeff finally achieved full transparency in his life and came out in his workplace, which is the government agency where he has worked since 2010. He eventually organized the first-ever LGBT diversity event there, and has organized two more events each year since. In his free time, Jeff runs Gay HealthNuts, a meet-up group with nearly 800 members, which he cofounded to provide a healthy atmosphere to bring together LGBT members and allies who share a common interest of living a healthy, active lifestyle, regardless of age, gender, or sexuality. Jeff is also passionate about serving the senior community through eldercare volunteering with his dog Zoe, and loves to honor seniors with his side business, Forever Legacy Video.
Craig A. Wilgenbusch, US Navy
Craig Wilgenbusch, was born into a Navy family and spent his youth moving between coasts of the US, Spain, and Italy. After graduating from The University of Virginia in May 1994, he was commissioned an Ensign in the United States Navy via NROTC. Craig spent years as a Surface Warfare Officer, transitioning to become an Engineering Duty Officer while obtaining his Masters Of Science in Electrical Engineering at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. Throughout his 11 year military career, he gained extensive expertise in the government acquisition and intelligence systems. He currently serves as a Department of the Navy civil servant program manager for SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific, the Navy’s west coast research and development laboratory. While still on active duty, Craig volunteered his efforts and time to work behind the scenes with other activists on repealing DADT. He served on both organizing committees for two events on the USS MIDWAY aircraft carrier museum called “Momentum on the Midway” in 2004 and 2005. Following his active duty service, joined the Military Advisory Council (MAC) of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) in May 2009, helping in the efforts to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell by participating in SLDN lobby days on Capital Hill, as well as raising funds and community awareness.
Veronica Zerrer, 2 LT, US Army
Veronica Zerrer began her military service in 1976 as an enlisted Intelligence Specialist in the U. S. Army. After graduating from Kansas State University, she was commissioned a Second Lieutenant. In a military career split between active duty and reserves, she was an armored cavalry platoon leader, company executive officer, company commander, and she held various staff jobs at battalion, brigade, and division level headquarters. These jobs ranged from a plans and operations officer in an infantry division to public affairs. She is a graduate of the U.S. Army’s Armor Officers Advanced Course, Fort Knox, Kentucky, and the combined arms Staff Services School at Fort Leavenworth. In a career that saw the Army committed to the Cold War, the first Persian Gulf War, and incurring other missions, Veronica served in both the 1st Infantry and the 35th Infantry divisions. After the Army, Veronica directed a homeless shelter, managed a program delivering home repair services to elderly homeowners, was the tribal grant writer for the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, and served as the director of development for the LGBT Center in Orange County, California. On three occasions she was notified of her selection to be reactivated during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She reluctantly declined because her transgender status would have disqualified her from combat battalion assignments and may have endangered her retirement benefits. She currently serves as the president of the board of Neutral Corner, San Diego’s longest lived trans nonprofit and was active in the planning and execution of Trans Pride 2016.
Mitchel Eugene Cantrell – US Army
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 – US Navy
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 – US Navy
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 – US Air Force
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 – US Air Force
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 – US Navy
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 – US Army
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, US Navy
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, US Air Force
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, US Navy
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.
Dennis Michael Fiordaliso, US Navy
Dennis graduated from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland in 1970, and served as an Engineering Officer in the Atlantic and Mediterranean Fleets for four years, achieving the rank of Lieutenant. He also later served as an Admiral’s Aide on the Military Staff Committee of the United Nations Security Council in New York City. In San Diego, Dennis was a Founding Board Member of the Lambda Archives, where he served as Treasurer for 16 consecutive years. During this time, he also initiated and helped implement the conversion of the organization’s financial records, membership lists, and inventories of books and other collections from hard-copy to computer files. Dennis was also a Board Member of Athletes-in-Motion, and helped organize the participation of 250 San Diego athletes at the Gay Games in Vancouver in 1990, where Team San Diego earned 150 medals including a Silver Medal for Dennis in Track. In 1992, as a member of the San Diego Veterans Association, Dennis was one of two dozen openly gay military veterans to march as a contingent in the San Diego Veterans Day Parade, the first such activity of its kind by a gay group in the United States. Also, during the past 25 years, Dennis has supported the work of other community groups, including: San Diego Front Runners and Walkers, Diversionary Theatre, the San Diego Democratic Club, the LGBT Center, and San Diego Pride.
Robert Hall “Jess” Jessop
Robert Hall Jessop – known by most in San Diego’s LGBT community as Jess Jessop – is one of San Diego’s true LGBT pioneers. What is not as well known, is Jess’s honorable service to the US Navy. It is unclear when Jess first entered the service, but Lambda Archives is in possession of a certificate of honorable discharge dated November 20, 1967. Lambda Archives also has a copy of Jess’s promotion certificate to Hospital Corpsman Second Class, date November 16, 1964. It is believed that he reached HC1st Class. Jess was awarded the Navy’s Silver Star for service in Vietnam, but it is said that he refused the honor as he was opposed to the war. Jess came to San Diego in 1969 for college, and was one of the early pioneers of San Diego’s LGBT community. In 1970, he famously set-up an answering machine in a utility closet that served as a help line to anyone in the LGBT community. That simple answering machine eventually became the San Diego LGBT Community Center. He also founded the Lesbian and Gay Archives in 1987, which is now known as the Lambda Archives. He was a most active member of the community until his death from AIDS in 1990.
John Carlos Keasler, US Army
John Carlos Keasler entered the U.S. Army in 1969. At his first duty station was the First Field Forces Viet Nam where he was assigned to duties as diverse as overseeing artillery base stand downs sand prisoner escort. Viet Nam was where he first experienced the very closeted but very active gay society of U. S. military life. Those experiences would continue as he rotated into an assignment in Northern Italy in the Southern European Task Force. Except for the military’s policy to criminally prosecute gays and lesbians, John might have made the Army his career. Using the GI Bill to finish his Degree at the University of North Texas, John relocated to San Diego in 1975. Here he almost immediately became involved in the fledgling Gay Rights Movement, including No on Prop 6, the fight against a ban on all gay and lesbian teachers in public schools. In 1985 with Jim Woodward and Stan Berry, John helped to found the San Diego Veterans Association (SDVA), the first organization for gay and lesbian veterans in San Diego. The SDVA also worked to protect the rights of gays, lesbians and bisexuals actively serving in the military. It would also bring such national notables as Miriam BenShalom and Perry Watkins to speak in San Diego. Because there was a strong peace movement interlinked with the gay rights activists there was much resistance to working on military related LGBT rights. The courage of people like Leonard Matlovich helped change minds on both sides of the issue. Calling on his experience working on the Gay Pride Marches in the 70s, John worked with the Veterans Advisory Council to reinstitute the Veterans Day Parade on San Diego streets after a double decade hiatus. In 1989 John would travel with Stan Berry to Washington D.C. to share concerns about the treatment of gays in the military, those unrightly discharged and military members with HIV/AIDS. There they would speak with members of Congress like Barbara Boxer, Alan Cranston, Pete Wilson and Ted Kennedy. In the 1990s John turned his focus to working with people with HIV/AIDS as a Benefits Counselor at the Center, a Quality Assurance Chair of the HIV Consumer Council, a Peer Advocate and Dean of the Strength for the Journey retreats. John continues that work as a member of the Board of San Diego Pozabilities. He is currently on the Board of Trustees of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego.
Robert A. Lehman, US Marine Corps
When Bob Lehman joined the Marine Corps in 1984, he was following in the footsteps of his grandfather, his father and his two brothers. He served proudly for nearly 10 years seeing action as an artillery sergeant in the first Gulf War, guarding nuclear weapons, as an artillery school instructor and finally the highly regarded placement as a Marine Recruiter. Time and again he was decorated for his service including the Navy Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, multiple Good Conduct Medals and several awards as a sharpshooter. Although a proud Marine, Bob experienced first-hand the isolation and discrimination facing LGBT military members. Because of his experience, once a veteran, he took it upon himself to right this wrong, becoming one of the nation’s leading activists for open service in the military. In 2001, he founded San Diego’s chapter of American Veterans for Equal Rights, hosting its national convention. He lobbied face-to-face with Democratic and Republican members of Congress to urge repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and organized lobbying trips to Washington DC. He was a founding member of the Military Education Initiative Board to examine military abuse of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Bob organized and led the first contingent of gay veterans to march in the San Diego Veteran’s Day Parade, holding heads high despite the denial of salutes from the grandstand officers. He became the first openly gay veteran appointed to the San Diego County Veteran’s Advisory Board. He became the first openly gay veteran appointed to the 51st Congressional District Veteran’s Advisory Board. For many years, Bob was a military commentator for several local television networks, wrote a military column in the Gay & Lesbian Times and was a featured columnist in the Union Tribune. Outside of military activism, Bob was one of the leading activists for marriage equality…eventually joining his husband of 22 years to become the first two men married in California history.He also co-founded the Stonewall Citizen’s Patrol following the brutal gay bashing of six gay men during Pride. This group is still going strong and just awarded Bob their “Founders Award” a few weeks ago. As a result of his contributions, the Mayor’s office has twice named “Robert A. Lehman Days” in the City of San Diego. San Diego Pride named him the “Champion of Pride” and the Lambda Achieves named him as one of 20 heroes in the past 20 years. He has received awards from Governors Davis and Schwarzenegger, Congresswoman Susan Davis, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, State Senator Christine Kehoe, State Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and Police Chief William Lansdowne. Today, Bob is President of the Board of the 200 member San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus—a role that allows him to celebrate the fruits of his past 15 years of activism and achievements—and, in the right setting—allows him to sing a good Johnny Cash song…or two.
Thomas Joseph Seguine, US Navy
Thomas J. Seguine is a proud transgender man who currently serves as a civilian Comptroller for the Department of the Navy. He has over 19 years of Department of Defense financial management experience, including Navy operational support, Army Garrison base support, and Air Force acquisition funds management. Thomas was a Storekeeper in the United States Navy for 10 years, ultimately earning the rank of Petty Officer First Class- E6. While providing supply support for two Navy commands, before and during Operation Iraqi Freedom, he earned a Navy Commendation Medal, two Navy Achievement medals, two National Defense medals, a Global War on Terrorism medal, and three good conduct medals. After completing 10 years of distinguished active duty military service, he transitioned to continue his service as a Navy civilian in 2005. He also became the very first civilian to openly transition his gender from female to male at his command. With the full support of his command, his open transition has served as an inspiration to LGBT civilians and service members alike. Additionally, he earned his Bachelors of the Arts in 2008 (graduating Cum Laude) while working full time, and was awarded the designation of Certified Defense Financial Manager (CDFM) in 2010. He is currently an active member in the American Society of Military Comptrollers. Early in his transition he was a member of the now defunct FTMI San Diego Chapter. He co-authored the article “He Said, She Said” for FlawLes magazine with his wife Sarafina about their journey as a queer couple in transition to serve as a reference for other couples. He was selected as the Keynote Speaker for the 10th Annual Transgender Day of Empowerment where many of his colleagues came to hear him speak. He is an active Board Member for Lambda Archives, a Leadership Circle member of The San Diego LGBT Community Center, and also serves on The Center’s first Project TRANS Advisory Committee. He has also mentored other young trans people through their transition and has spoken about his experience on multiple panels to educate people about the Trans experience and LGBT issues.
Frank Stefano, US Navy
Frank Stefano served in the US Navy and on reserve assignments for over 30 years. He was first stationed in San Diego in 1953 before taking assignments in London, England, and Washington DC. He served as Executive Officer and Commanding Officer of US Navy Reserve Commands in Manhattan and Brooklyn following his active duty service. He was educated at Bucknell University, and received advance degrees from New York University and the New School of Social Research. After his full time Navy service ended, he worked on Wall Street for NASD, NYSE and now gone brokerage firm, and owned his own tax service until retiring in 2005. He has been a permanent San Diego resident since the early 1990’s but has enjoyed his work on both coasts. He has been incredibly active with the LGBT movement since the 1970’s, starting with service to the Gay Switchboard in New York. In San Diego, he has volunteered with Mama’s Kitchen for over a decade, as well as a decade of service to the Lambda Archives through volunteering and board service. He has volunteered for San Diego Hospice for over 15 years, and regularly shares financial contributions to organizations like The Center.
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.