Source: Desert Post Weekly, Palm Springs, CA
Entirely inappropriate? Sometimes it can be the tiniest things that cause the most trouble, and you don't have to have a lot of land to get a battleground. Take the square foot or so of the paver dedicated to gay and lesbian veterans who died in combat that is placed on the grounds of the California Veterans Memorial. The paver states: In honor of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender veterans killed in action. That's it. That's all. Just a tiny, quiet statement of recognition of the truth-that homosexuals have served in the military and have died in service to their country-nothing more, nothing less. But if there is to be a war, it may just start there.
A letter to California Department of Vetrans Affairs Secretary Maurice Johannesen dated August 27, has now surfaced, signed by 32 Republican legislators including State Senator Jim Battin and Assemblyman John Benoit. The letter formally requests that the CDVA have the paver "removed and redesigned to be more in accordance with the other pavers by displaying only the name of the sponsorng organization and their logo."
The distinction is most everybody else is from one group or another that is paving to be a sponsor to help pay for the vets memorial and now this savs it is a particular memorial for a particular group;' Benoit explained, when asked about his signature. "I can certainly see the concerns. This memorial is a group effort to memorialize all veterans. I saw that [the gay veterans' paver] as being out of line.'
Battin voiced similar concerns in a letter to Tom Swann, a local veteran and activist who was involved with the installation of the paver, and who threatened a protest at the senator's office should he not apologize for backing the effort to remove the stone.
"Let me be very clear about this issue-if the California Gay Veterans Memorial Association had purchased a paver for the Veterans Memorial in Capitol Park and had simply listed their name and logo just as every other entitv that has purchased a paver had dune, I would have no objection to it whatsoever. However, that is not what your organization did;" Battin's letter to Swann stated.
"There are pavers there that make reference to different groups of veterans," said Andrew Kotch, a spokesman for the CDVA, who noted there were pavers from Filipino and Hispanic veterans groups as well as some from disabled vets organizations. "If they do not want veterans to be identified that way, we'll have to review all of them:"
No one has objected to any paver other than that dedicated to gay and lesbian war dead. But, as Battin pointed out in a faxed response to questions from the Weekly, His stance from the CDVA in designing the paver, with its original plans modified to meet requirements. Swann agreed that original plans for a paver twice the size of the existing one, would have detracted from the memorial. But as Kotch said, "There is a granite stone walkway around the monument and the stones have the names of groups or individuals in them. You've got to walk around and read the names to find it"
"They're confused;" Swann said of the legislators. If you paid $5,000, you could have a bench with the logo of your organization on it. AMVETS has one, so does the VFW Our paver is next to one where a wife bought one for her husband. It says his name, rank and when he served in the military. I could have bought one for myself. Any veteran can." Swann said it is interesting that the letter was dated the day after the dedication of the paver, but it took until the letter was leaked to the Sacramento Bee before he found out about it. And there may be something more to it, Swann noted in his letter to Battin.
"I feel Senator Pete Knight politicized the paver when he leaked your August 27 opposition letter to the Sacramento Bee," he stated. "If you really oppose the gay veteran paver then introduce legislation that gays cannot have the same paver as Filipino and Hispanic veterans. Then let's have a vote and see who stands for equality:"
In response to Battin's objection to the paver, Swann said the group thought it would be tacky to do what the legislators want-only state the name of their organization.
"It would be promoting the group instead of the memory of those who died," he commented. "The members of our group are still alive. We wanted to memorialize those killed in action. The paver is for people like Frank Moulton, the namesake of our AMVETS post who died. The bottom line for the people who buy these pavers is what's in their heart."
Ultimately, that may be it. What's in our hearts.
What is in Battin's? The senator has called upon Swann to encourage him to "willingly and respectfully correct this paver issue, and pursue the special memorial you are interested in under separate cover and through the appropriate channels." Swann, while using some pretty vitriolic language in his initial letter to the senator, has called off any protest of Battin's office saying he is satisfied there is a dialog. Kotch said there are no plans to remove the paver from the grounds of the memorial.
Still, the words of the original letter haunt us: "This latest paver (as if there are more?) is entirely inappropriate as it establishes homosexual vets as a special class, worthy of special honor. It is stunning that a small group ol homosexual activists were able to design, install and unveil what they have deemed a `monument' to the legacy of homosexual vets:'
It's funny. When you read the letter several times, it appears as if there is something smaller than the paver that is the source of all this trouble. What could be smaller than that little stone, that wee Gettysburg, that tiny Antietam? Just possibly the compassion of thirty two lergislators for those who died defending theur country and who to this day remain second-class citizens.