The play SHOUT! was inspired by Inner Voices, a story written by Army veteran Theresa Duke for the Museum of the American Military Family’s anthology, SHOUT! Sharing Our Truth: An Anthology of Writing by LGBT Veterans and Family Members of the U.S. Military Services. Lora Beldon, the 2017-2019 museum Artist-in-Residence and museum Director Circe Olson Woessner co-edited the anthology.
Inner Voices had exceptionally compelling dialogue and Beldon and Woessner agreed the story would translate well on stage. Playwright Melissa Rayford seamlessly wove together multiple stories contributed by service members, military spouses, brats and allies into a strong, thought-provoking and poignant piece.
Beldon says, “Shared stories help build and define our identity…help communities learn from each other. People who haven’t experienced what LGBTQ veterans or their families have, can better understand and learn about the subculture through the play.”
In 2018, SHOUT! and the museum’s companion exhibit Still Shouting – Memories from Inside the Closet received the American Association for State and Local History’s prestigious Albert B. Corey Award, gaining national recognition for the museum.
SHOUT! debuted in Richmond, VA, on September 22, 2019 and received positive reviews.
Rayford, who also directed the Richmond performance said, “It is our hope…that we create a production to be used by any theatre group wishing to produce this subject matter.”
While the 2020-2021 Covid pandemic sidelined further stage performances, it did not stop Beldon and Woessner from collaborating with Dr Deborah Cohler (San Francisco State University) and Dr. Erica Chu (Truman College) to create educational materials based on LGBTQ and military history and stories in the script to help enhance the audience experience and to provide further education by facilitating post-play discussion.
In December 2020, Los Angeles based director, Herb Hall led nine actors in a virtual reading of SHOUT!.
Navy veteran Kayt Peck reviewed the online reading saying,
“I applaud the Museum of the American Military Family in their efforts to acknowledge LGBTQ service members, especially those who spent years, even decades serving in silence, protecting a country that did not recognize them as worthy citizens. This remains a dedicated mission for the Museum even as Covid makes live theatre an impossibility.
“SHOUT! accomplishes a critical need by making discussion of gays in the military not simply a discussion of a concept but also showing the impacts on real people and acknowledging the talents and dedication of LGBTQ service members. Those talents help make the military the efficient and effective component of society that it can and must be.”
Hall will be directing a virtual one-day matinee performance of SHOUT! on June 27, 2021 at 2 PM PDT. The museum board and cast are raising funds to cover expenses through a dedicated fundraising platform.
Air Force Spouse Aimee Hanebeck, one of the many volunteers working tirelessly to ensure the play moves forward, says,
“This is an important work of theater and a source of great pride for the museum to have curated the stories for the play. In this innovative time of a post-Covid exposed world, artists have found ways to bring their craft to their audience, and as such, SHOUT! will be available in an online performance.
We would like to invite you to be a part of this project. As a nonprofit, the museum is sustained entirely by donations from patrons. In order to uphold the dignity of this script, we have set a goal to fairly compensate the actors and staff, record the performance, and make it available for greater circulation and for use in academic and corporate settings.”
Volunteers have set up a dedicated Fundly account, and anyone who contributes to it will receive a link to the June 27th performance.
The museum is a 501c3 all-volunteer non-profit located in Tijeras, New Mexico, seven miles east of Albuquerque. Visit the museum’s webpage to learn more about SHOUT!
The museum will be focusing on a series of topics over the next year as part of our E Pluribus Unum-GRAICE Under Pressure project. Our Writers in Residence will examine and reflect on numerous topics pertaining to gender, religion, race, identity, culture and ethnicity. In addition to essays, our podcasts and YouTube videos will also examine what makes us-well, us. Please be thinking of ways you can lend your experiences to the wider conversation.
In July 1971 in Paris, France, Jim Morrison, frontman for the band, The Doors, died a rock star death. He was 27. Despite my many young-1960s hours spent listening to The Doors while sitting on the linoleum of my barracks cubicle and leaning against my bunk — I had no car — I don’t have any “I remember where I was” instant with Morrison’s death.
In that same July and on that same continent, I was roughly four and a half hours due east of him, in third-floor walkup Army quarters in Pirmasens, West Germany, now a soldier’s wife instead of an Army personnel clerk. If the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service network in Europe broadcast news of Morrison’s death, I missed it.
Eight changes of address after Pirmasens, my husband and I were back in West Germany. Now we were on the other side of the country. This time, Elvis had died. This news on the radio gave me the flashbulb moment I missed with Morrison. By then I was near Fulda, in my kitchen, 20 klicks from the East German border, giving my son breakfast. Quaker instant oatmeal. Apple.
So why should I consider Morrison’s death relevant to my experiences? Not that I knew it then but Jim and I had both been military kids.
Jim Morrison’s father had been a career sailor and was a retired admiral when his son died. My dad had been a career soldier/airman and was a retired Air Force master sergeant when The Doors lost their lead singer in Paris. I doubt my dad noticed. During WW 2, Jim’s father had been a sailor, floating somewhere on the Pacific. My dad, during the same war, had been an aerial photographer, flying somewhere over the Pacific. The glaring difference between Jim and me is that he was famous. I was very much not famous. Jim was seven years older than I was, so he’d had a head start on fame but, seven years later, I still wasn’t famous. Still, as military kids, we shared the life.
So, are there traceable events in the lives of military dependents, of brats, that make some of us rebel and become the Lizard King, and others to follow an opposite path and be the wife of a career soldier? Since, among my friends, the ways grown brats live their lives range from off the grid living in the wilds of Alaska to establishing post-service Beltway contractor businesses, I’m guessing statistics would show that our life paths are all individual.
Many of us children of military parents serve in the military services: Francis Warren Pershing, John S. D. Eisenhower, John McCain, the three children of General James McConville, the current Chief of Staff of the Army, my brother, and my sister and me. Some brats become pacifists, such as the members of the mellow rock band, America. Other brats blend into civilian communities as teachers, nurses, middle-management corporate officials, or any of the host of jobs available in the country. Some military-affiliated kids, with less tragic stories than Jim Morrison, also rise to stardom: Jessica Alba, Bruce Willis, Ciara, Kris Kristofferson, Amy Adams, and Patton Oswalt.
As for the parents of brats, despite continual volunteer work in communities and as government employees themselves, spouses of career service members usually don’t attract fame outside the various awards for “spouse of the year,” but fame is not necessary for valued contribution. Value itself resides in being part of the team supporting our country’s warriors.
Military children, drafted into the life often at birth, are a part of the overall population of Americans who take part in the mission of America’s military services. Some may say that spouses and kids are dependapotamuses, brats, straphangers. Of course, some family members are ‘less than supportive.’ Lake Woebegone notwithstanding, no population group is all above average. We’ve all heard, “If the [Service name] wanted you to have a spouse/family, they’d have issued you one!”
Overall, spouses and brats provide service members with stability, with normal homes to settle in after a day, a week, a month, or a year of military duties. Spouses are sounding boards, absorbing stories from their partners, both of frustration and joy. Children ground the service members in the everyday.
The support given to service members by their families has military value as attested to by so many promotion photos of family members pinning on the service member’s new rank. If the military services did not value spouses and brats, then Congress would not appropriate, and the DoD would not disburse, the funding necessary for hospitals, health care, and youth activities. The government would not spend money on family housing, transportation of dependents, or shipping mini-vans or other vehicles overseas. There would be no point to large commissaries, youth centers, and dependent schools. If our government did not recognize that families share the purpose of mission with servicemembers, far fewer soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, and Coast Guardsmen would have families.
So who are military people? All of us ID-card holders make up the fabric of the American military structure, with service members as the tip of the spear. Given the money underpinning the DoD, rather than thinking, “if [Service] wanted you to have a spouse/family, …” one official outlook must be, “recruit an individual; retain a family.” No spear consists only of its tip.
Valerie Bonham Moon
By Kent Scott
It was just past midnight on early Saturday morning, January 31,1959–twelve days past my twenty-third birthday. I had worked the cycle and was assuming duty for the midnight to 0800 watch again at the American Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. Conditions were even worse than the last time I stood this watch. Where in the hell did all that snow come from? There was more than a foot on the ground.
The walk from the Marine House to Embassy compound was unpleasant. My feet were cold by the time I arrived at Embassy front gate. It wasn’t far, just over a block. All I had on my feet were combat boots and slipover lowcut rubbers…totally inadequate for this weather. What I needed were Mickey Mouse boots like I wore during cold weather training in the Sierra Mountains when I was with the 5th Marines back at Camp Pendleton.
All the Bubbas and man servants were on rooftops shoveling the snow off. If they didn’t, some roofs would cave in. With a thaw those mud-over pole roofings would leak like a sieve. Our feisty old Gate Bubba had three of his nephews shoveling off the Embassy roof tops. They really turned to and made the snow fly. If they didn’t perform, old Kaka (pronounced Koko, means uncle or honored elder) would deal with them. Koko and I had a mutual admiration society going—we’d shared an adventure last Spring.
One of the kerosene powered refrigerators in the Embassy Commissary overheated and caught the sugar in the next bin on fire. You talk about hot…the mixture of cane sugar and kerosene burned a blue flame! I was thankful for the firefighting training I’d received in embassy school back in D.C. I grabbed a bucket of sand and threw it at the base of the flame. I yelled at Koko and waved the empty sand bucket. There were two more sand buckets close by. I grabbed those buckets and threw them on the flames too. When you needed them, Koko’s nephews were always around. It wasn’t long before Koko and two nephews came running with a sand bucket in each hand. We were also lucky the fire was located just inside the front door. I could take a deep breath, step inside, throw the contents of the bucket on the fire, then retreat outside again. I finally finished the fire off with a standard chemically charged fire extinguisher. I don’t know if we could have handled the fire if it had been on the far end of the commissary. The Kabul Fire Department with sirens blaring came roaring through the gate. Too late, me and my fire brigade already had the fire out and things under control.
……… I was just sitting there behind the guard desk located in the entrance to the chancery, going over Sergeant Charlie Brown’s log to see what had happened the previous eight hours. Nothing unusual other than the snow reported in the log book. An entry noting that Koko’s nephews had come on the premises and were shoveling snow. I checked the embassy car dispatch log to see if any cars were scheduled on my shift. One was scheduled to pick up a visiting diplomat staying at the First Secretary’s house. The driver was to pick him up at 0600 and take him to the airport for an early flight out. I was sure the airport would be closed but that would have to be verified.
The inclement nasty weather wasn’t my biggest concern right now. It was Gehr, my female German Shepherd . I was worried, and I mean really worried. I normally brought her to the Embassy with me, but I could tell she wasn’t feeling well. Her nose was hot and dry. When she walked, she staggered like she had lost her sense of balance. You could tell her feelings were hurt when I made her stay home. I put her in my room on my bed and covered her with a extra blanket. I knew she was in a family way. I had her bred to Major, the commissary manger’s beautiful registered German Shepherd . He was very large and almost white. I was expecting some handsome pups out from him. I’d lost all track of time. How long had it been since they bred…and, how long was the gestation period? If I ever knew, I’d forgotten.
Gehr had been given to me by an Afghan acquaintance who thought he could no longer take care of her properly. She and I took to each other right away. When the Embassy was closed, I always had her with me on watch. After she got used to my routine, she proved to be a good guard dog. If something or someone was out of place, she would growl and let me know. She even growled when the Gunny made one of his surprise inspections trying to catch me sleeping on duty. He wouldn’t even get through the front gate before she let me know. My most secret inner satisfaction was that Gehr didn’t like the Gunny, our Noncommissioned Officer In Charge. I was really amused. When his brain was mushy from drinking too much beer, he said to me, “Scott, when I catch you sleeping on duty or screwing up, I’ll see that you are sent back to the states and court marshaled.” I replied, “Gunny, you won’t catch me because I don’t sleep or screw up on duty.”
The truth was, with Gehr at my side I could’ve done a lot of sleeping on duty and never got caught. I didn’t ever do it because this old Missouri Ozark Hillbilly had been raised to have a sense of duty and honor—even before the Marine Corps training, indoctrination, and discipline. It was a strange thing. When we were at the Marine House, the Gunny would try to get Gehr to come to him or obey some of his commands. She would completely ignore him. The Gunny was the kind, if he gave a command to a fence post, he thought the fence post should respond. It really hacked him off, because Gehr would only interact with me, Sergeants Brown, Fisher, Schrank, and Corporal Walton. Don’t know what conclusions could be drawn. We were the only Marines in the detachment who were from states west of the Mississippi River. The rest of the Marines were from the northeast…Massachusetts and New York as I remember. My only other explanation —Gehr was an excellent judge of character.
……… Time to make my rounds of the outside compound and offices that bordered the east side of the compound. It paralleled the street the Marine House compound was on. This was the time I was going to miss Gehr the most. Making rounds on the graveyard shift when it was really cold was a whistle while you walk through the graveyard experience. All kinds of noises occurred when temperatures went from warmer to colder, or, visa versa. The buildings contracted and expanded with the temperature changes and made their own special noises. When that cold mountain wind came blowing in and hit the eves on the buildings just right, or the of shutters on windows, you thought you were hearing some unskilled person playing with a pipe organ. Down in front of the commissary there were cases of empty coke and pop bottles setting out. A puff of wind blew across the top of them and I thought I heard a short flute and piccolo concerto. Back in the northeast corner of the embassy compound, behind the commissary office and warehouse was the bone pile of the wooden crates that had contained all the commissary and embassy goods shipped in. Some of the crating boards were green and filled with moisture. A sudden freeze turned the moisture in those boards to ice which expanded. The results were loud pops and cracks… sounding like small caliber pistol shots. Some sounds were sudden and surprising, like a horse clomping behind me!
I turned and yelled, “Oh no, don’t you jump up on me!” It was Kuchi Pooch (literal translation meaning Dog Pooch). My yell didn’t do me any good. The big affectionate hound reared up and put his snow wet front paws on my shoulders. He almost knocked me to the ground. I was off balance and couldn’t protect myself. I got canoodled with a wet tongue lollop across the mouth. Yuck! You talk about halitosis! He had a very satisfied I got’ya look on his face. I was six feet tall. When Kuchi Pooch put his front paws on my shoulders, we looked at each other eye to eye. With a small keg of brandy around his neck he could have passed for a St. Bernard. He looked like one with short hair or some kind of Mastif. Very large, I bet he weighed at least 120 pounds. Kuchi Pooch was one of many dogs in Kabul that were known as Juis Dogs (Pronounced Jewie, meaning Ditch Dogs). No one owned these Juis dogs. They were hale and hearty dogs that lived by their wits. Their immune systems were second to none. They ate stuff I wouldn’t want my dog to touch. Kuchi Pooch was a legend at the Embassy.
If I understood Gate Bubba Koko correctly, this old pooch had been mooching food and treats off Marines since 1950. He allegedly had protected a Marine Sergeant from wolves that came down from the higher altitudes of Hindu Kush mountains one cold winter night, while the Sergeant was walking to Embassy to assume his mid-watch duty. The fighting wolves story was hard to believe. I wondered if it wasn’t one of the many stories created while beers were being consumed over that old cigarette scorched bar in the Marine House. If that old bar was a play-back tape recorder I bet you would hear lots of creative and embellished stories told there through the years. I might have left one or two there myself.
Kuchi Pooch had a great disposition and was not aggressive in any way. He didn’t even attack cats like Gehr did. Several months back before Gehr became my partner, I was making my 4:00 AM tour of the compound when a cat leaped off the corner the commissary warehouse building onto my shoulder on his way to the ground. While I hyperventilated and gasped for breath, Kuchi Pooch and the blackish yellow cat played tag. They ran in circles chasing each other. The Gate Bubba would have had to bury another cat if Gehr had been with me. This was a long anxious unpleasant duty night for me. In addition to worrying about Gehr, I tromped through kneedeep snow sporting the latest security device only a civilian State Department security officer could dream up. I now carried a night watchman’s punch clock on my shoulder. We had punch stations in the outlying offices that we must open up with keys and physically enter. It was going to take a lot more time to do our jobs now. Previously we would shake down every office at least once to see if any safes were left open or classified documents left out. We wrote up security violations if we found any.
I always worked in concert with Sergeant Charlie Brown. Each of us made detail security inspections in the most sensitive areas of the Embassy. On the preceding shift, Charlie only inspected half of less sensitive areas. I got the other half on my following shift. After we finished our chosen inspections, we did door shakes and flashlight beams through the windows. The tours went pretty fast and we had much more time for correspondence study or reading a good book.
Charlie was studying Criminal Justice. I was studying Accounting. We both were required to study an Advanced Infantry course at least six hours a week. It was demeaning being reduced to Night Watchman status. The new security procedure took away from our self improvement time. Charlie and I were unhappy. Later on we planned a going away party for the embassy security officer and sent him an invitation. The event took place three days after his date of departure. My watch finally ended and I trudged home in knee deep snow. I hurried to my room so I could check on Gehr. I pulled back the blanket I’d covered her with. Whoa! Gehr growled and snapped at me. I saw why. Five pups—three less than remarkable German Shepherds that looked and were built like their mother—and— two, make no mistake about it, two handsome little Kuchi Pooches. As a 84 year old man trying to recall and share the events of his life, I regret my thinking when I first glimpsed Gehr and her whelps. I thought, Gehr, you shameless hussy. You’ve had pups by two different sires! We know all life events don’t end on a happy note.
I felt deep remorse when Gehr died from birthing complications five days later. The Turkish Veterinarian that lived next door tried hard to save her but it wasn’t to be. I was proud of my Marine Corps brothers when they turned to and helped me feed our infant K-9 Corps ever four hours for eight days. We poked holes in the fingers of rubber gloves and fed them fortified powdered milk. The Marines coming off duty every eight hours fed them. The off duty Marines picked up the two midday feedings. Fazi, our cook, and Mama Jahn, our head servant were very helpful having the substance available. After eight days I put them on baby pablum until they were ready for puppy chow. The pups were just about four months old when I was transferred to the Embassy in Cairo, Egypt. My legacy to the Embassy Guard Detachment in Kabul was three jovial, playful, and happy future German Shepherd guard dogs. If not that, good companions as good dogs can be. Two families with young children got the joy sharing their lives with a couple of Kuchi Pooches. You are a lucky man if you’ve owned one good dog in your lifetime. Gehr was a good dog. That old reprobate Kuchi Pooch was a good hound too.