The music in the video above is from Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony and is based on the gospel hymn, “Goin’ Home.” I am in the Bel Air Community Band and this is the music we play over and over during the “laying of the wreaths” ceremony for the fallen members of each military branch on Memorial Day at the Humbert Band Shell in Bel Air, Maryland. This year we are going to play “Abide with Me” during the ceremony:
In the movie Saving Private Ryan, Tom Hanks leads a squad to save a soldier whose brothers all have been killed fighting in World War II and just before dying in the climactic battle, he says to Pvt. Ryan of his sacrifice, “Earn it.” And then we see Ryan decades later, with the fruits of what the sacrifice of the lives of others has purchased for him — he is alive, with his wife and children and grandchildren, walking through a cemetery at Normandy to find the grave of the soldier who died for him.
The U.S. military has not earned the right — not on this day or any other — to say it fights to preserve liberty for all in America — not as long as it fights to keep gays and lesbians from serving openly and equally in the military.
It is very rude of me to bring this up but if I don’t say it here I will be heckling the speakers at my county’s Memorial Day service in a few minutes from the stage behind them. I belong to the Bel Air Community Band and this is how we spend the morning every Memorial Day. Last year, when one of the speakers began to talk about “liberty for all,” I just freaking snapped and almost left the stage. No — not “all.”
One of my ancestors was with Washington through the winter at Valley Forge. I am descended from colonists. My parents met working on the Manhattan Project. My father’s brother was a Flying Tiger. His other brother also served in the Army during World War II. My mother’s brothers — the ones old enough — served in the military in World War II. But I am not equal because I am a lesbian. Lesbians and gays may not serve openly in the military.
If you want the right to say “liberty” and “all” today, or any other day — earn it. Repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Repeal the “Defense of Marriage Act.” Include “sexual orientation” in federal, state and local civil rights laws. Put equality for gays and lesbians into the law. THEN you can say, “liberty” and “all.”