While conducting research at my local library, I discovered the story of a decorated veteran and forgotten gay American hero. His name is Oliver W. Sipple and on September 22, 1975, he bravely saved the life of President Gerald R. Ford in San Francisco when he grabbed the hand of Sarah Jane Moore as she attempted to assassinate the president.
Oliver W. Sipple epitomized service in the eyes of many with his heroics. However, simply because he was gay, his own parents and hometown of Detroit Michigan rejected this hero and Vietnam veteran. Thirty-five years has come and gone and it is high time America honors this gay hero in a special and meaningful way.
“We the People” have a custom where citizens or legislators of this great nation have placed the name of a prominent figure on a piece of newly enacted legislation when warranted. This is to honor or recognize certain individuals, whether living or dead, who have influenced our lives for the purpose of betterment.
Sipple reportedly died of “natural causes” at age 47. However, it was obvious to many that it was not a heart attack but a broken heart mixed with alcohol that took the life of this gay American hero. Among his possessions was a framed thank you letter from President Ford.
As we near the end of DADT, we must give strong consideration for the naming of any act whereby all present and future gay military personnel can serve their country openly in honor of a man who is long overdue to receive honor for his heroics.
“Don’t ask don’t tell” (DADT) allows gays to serve in the military, but not openly. President Bill Clinton signed this legislation into law in 1993 as a compromise to a total ban of gays serving in the military as threatened by Congress at the time.
The latest chapter in the legal battle spearheaded back in 2004 by the gay political group, the “Log Cabin Republicans,” who brought a lawsuit to repeal DADT has been pushed back yet again by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals until the spring of 2011. The Log Cabin Republicans has appealed the ninth circuit decision.
The Obama administration has taken a stance that has many feeling the president broke his campaign promise, merely because he chose, Congress as a course to end the DADT law, over an executive order, which he also has the power to do. The executive order would not be permanent, whereas having Congress change the law would be.
Neither by the court nor by an executive order would we be able to name the historical event on ending DADT. Congress can give this honor to a deserving individual whether Oliver Sipple or anyone else. However, you would be hard pressed to find someone who was treated more unfairly by his country but yet so deserving of recognition for his service.
Our current leaders have upset many gays with the slow handling of ending DADT. However, I get the sense that they are committed to ending it. With that confidence, I am committed to giving the proper name recognition to any legislation that allows gays to serve openly in our military.
Sending to my legislative representative, Senate Committee on Armed Services members contact info and House member contact info a letter or e-mail of support for honoring a forgotten gay American hero Oliver W. Sipple is a start but not nearly enough.
The formal ending of World War I, which was at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice, was the impetus for our national annual recognition of those who serve(d) in our military. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day, now called Veteran’s Day, as a federal holiday back on November 11, 1919.
I urge all who support proper recognition of this forgotten hero to become active by first learning yourself of Oliver W. Sipple. Then, if you agree that he deserves this posthumous honor, contact your representative in Washington, D. C.
Whether we admit it or not, honoring veterans on November 11 has lost special meaning and I wish “We the People” make Veteran’s Day special again.