Unless you live under a rock...or are a certain veteran I am in class with who apparently forgets Veteran's Day every year...this is the day when we honor those who, as some have said, have written a blank check to our country. They were willing to pay whatever price was neccessary for our freedom.
But Veteran's Day is bitter sweet for me.
On the one hand, I am deeply grateful for all those who have made that sacrifice for us. And each year, I personally thank my favorite veteran, who knows who she is, for serving.
But on the other, I regret being denied my chance to serve in that way.
Yes, I am serving my country as a Foreign Service Officer, and I am deeply proud of my service and of my country for letting me serve openly.
But there is not a shred of doubt in my mind that had I been allowed to serve in the military without having to abandon the military traditions of honor and dignity by lying about who I am, I would have. I'd have written that check. In a heartbeat. I wanted to write that check.
So Veteran's Day is bittersweet for me because I love this country, warts and all. And as an American Indian, I am more than aware of her warts. But also of her wonders. And I wanted to serve without having to lie. And I admire all those who serve from the closet, knowing that should they pay the ultimate price, their husbands and wives will be the last to know.
I am eager for the day to come when Don't Ask, Don't Tell is lifted and I am thankful for President Clinton for lifting the ban on openly gay Foreign Service Officers having a security clearance. Because we once served in silence too.
And on this day too, I think about the bitter irony that the person who taught me the value of serving this country was my grandfather, who served in the Marines for 30 years. He was also the only person in my family to reject me for being gay even as I was the only one of his descendents to choose to follow his example and serve this country.