Christmas in the Military


Midway Island




Please sponsor our special holiday exhibit


Still Shouting! An Exhibit at the Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center

Sunday, May 5, 2019 was a special day for the Museum of the American Military Family, located in Tijeras, NM. The museum had recently acquired and renovated a few more rooms, which includes a performance and educational space. The MEPs, which stands for the Museum Education and Performance Space, will display a series of rotating exhibits.

The museum acquired the Albuquerque Military Entrance Processing Station sign when the military relocated its operations to another building. It is displayed in the performance space; and therefore, the MEPS at the museum has a multi-layered meaning.

When people enlist into the service, their first introduction to life in the service is going through the Military Entrance Processing Station, also known as the MEPS. This is where a new chapter in their story will start. Often, besides physical testing, there are a few other tests done to determine what job they will do in the service, so, now, not only will a MEPS facility be the start of their military story, but now the museum’s MEPS can be where people can tell not only their full story of service, but their family can also tell their stories.

In early May, the museum director Dr. Circe Olson Woessner and museum special projects manager Dr. Phil Pohl l worked right up until the last minute to get the MEPS set up with its first exhibit. There had been a grand re-opening of the museum in mid-April, and the other galleries had already had their showing. Now it was the performance space’s time to shine.

The exhibit chosen to hold the honor of being the first one in the MEPS was an expanded encore exhibit and recipient of the American Association for State and Local History’s 2018 Albert B. Cory prize. That exhibit was Inside Out: Memories From Inside the Closet. That exhibit also included the museum’s publication SHOUT! Sharing Our Truth.

The new, expanded exhibit is called Still Shouting! and is a collection of stories and art work of veterans and active service members who are LGBTQ+. Accompanying the artwork is a timeline of the history of LGBTQ+ in the military and how the U.S government and armed forces handled those who they considered to be in the LGBTQ+ community. ​

Still Shouting! is a collaboration between Department of Veterans Affairs, Sandia National Labs Pride Alliance, American Veterans for Equal Rights, Kirtland Air Force Base Gay-Straight Alliance and the museum.

To help commemorate this event, two guest speakers were invited to speak, either about their experience in while they served, or about their interactions with the LGBTQ+ community. Representing New Mexico’s Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham was New Mexico Cabinet Secretary for Veterans Services was retired brigadier general Judy Griego, and also present was Bernalillo County Commissioner (District 5) Charlene Pyskoty. Members of AVER presented the colors during the brief opening ceremony. ​​

The star of this exhibit is a closet containing uniforms tops, most turned inside out to represent those who had to serve while in the closet, but now are out, while one was right side out, which was created by a currently serving transgender airman. The closet is designed so that when a rope is pulled, the door opens, and the uniforms came out on display. Veterans from two VA medical centers, AVER, Sandia Labs, and KAFB Gay-Straight alliance used various media, like magazine clippings, art work, and even their own words to express their feelings and experiences about being LGBTQ+ while serving.

Veterans in El Paso and Albuquerque, working with Dr. Kyle Erwin contributed to the exhibit. In 2017, Dr. Erwin was doing his residency at the ABQ VA, where he worked with the LGBTQ+ group. With his assistance, the group produced about half a dozen shirts. When he transferred to El Paso, he presented the idea of this exhibit the groups in El Paso, and they contributed more shirts.

​Before the ceremony, visitors wandered through the museum and expressed their admiration in how the museum has expanded, enjoying the new displays and the different topics each gallery covered. At the appointed time, we all gathered in the MEPS and awaited the opening ceremony. The AVER color guard had not only the US flag, but the New Mexico state flag, the MIA flag, and the LGBTQ+ and Transgender flags as well.

​Dr. Woessner opened by sharing how this exhibit came to be, explaining the different components of the installation, and why she feels we need to keep the LGBTQ+ service members, veterans and even family members’ stories going.

She stated, “From its inception, our museum is all-inclusive and dedicated to present all aspects of life in and around military service. Through our anthology and this exhibit, we share with the public unique stories that haven’t often been told.”

​Dr. Woessner presented both guest speakers with “Brat” pins honoring their ties to a military childhood. The first speaker was Secretary Griego, and she talked about her history as the child of a servicemember, her career in the Air Force as the first female General in the New Mexico National Guard. She then touched on how she had supported the LGBTQ+ community and how the Governor will not only support Servicemembers and Veterans in general, but her support of those in the LGBTQ+ community. She remarked, “The Governor and I fully support those in the LGBTQ+ community and their families, and in our eyes, [they] are veterans who need to be supported too.”

​​Bernalillo County Commissioner Charlene Pyskoty spoke next, emphasizing her support for the LGBTQ community. Because she doesn’t like to stand behind a podium, she walked around as she delivered her speech, and her energy was catching. She said she was happy the museum was here and that it “would help people learn about and understand the richness of our military history.” She ended by saying, that the museum has added to the community and she’d like to explore how she and the other commissioners might help support it.

​​Once the speeches were over, it was time to unveil the main attraction: the closet.

Secretary Griego and AVER member Brandon Rodriguez grabbed the rope, opened the closet, and pulled all the uniform tops, with their stories and testimonies out front and center. It was very symbolic to have an active duty transgender airman pull open the closet. Once this was completed, group photos were taken and then everyone walked around looking at all the displays.

 

​I have a few things in the exhibit myself, so there is a bit of bias on my part here. When Dr. Woessner was first putting this together, to get an idea of how long doing a top would take, she asked if I would be willing to take a uniform top and use artwork tell my story. Being as I was one of the first people she asked to do this, I took this kind of literally. I told my story, but I used my art to enhance the story and to make a stronger point about my feelings of who I was and where I am going.

Later, I was asked to contribute a story for the planned anthology, and I did. Because I had always told my story in the format of first person, I felt I needed to do something different. Knowing all the stories would be written in similar formats, I wrote my story in a dialogue between my male side and my female side. Because I chose to write it this way, it inspired the upcoming play, SHOUT! now in production in Richmond, VA, which will be debuting in July 2019. My story can be found in the first anthology, SHOUT! Sharing Our Truth.

​This museum is a bit special to me. Not only do I get to take part of projects that deal with veteran issues, but I have donated objects to the museum from my time in the service– items that may not have been donated until I passed away. So, this way, I have a vested interest in making sure the story of the museum is told—and– my story gets to be told as well. Seeing the shirts and reading the stories, makes me proud of my fellow LGBTQ+ veterans.

The thing about being asked to contribute my story and artwork to this exhibit, is that it made me examine my life and put everything into perspective. I realize that some of the ways I was being treated by my fellow service members was not normal and saw how it affected my life.

Working with Dr. Woessner has helped me to learn new skills and to look at life in different ways than I am used to. She does not push hard; she asks if I want to take part in something and knowing that things may end up being seen by people I would never expect to meet, I say yes. It is at that point, she pushes, because what I gave her last time would have to be stepped up this time.

It is the same with her museum: she does not rest on her laurels, but looks ahead, knowing that she may have to do something out of her comfort zone. She cares deeply about everyone’s stories and works hard to see that everyone is treated equally. Like I said at the start, I am biased because when I am there, I point out my story to visitors as they walk around the museum.

With Still Shouting! dozens of previously unheard stories now have a voice.

This is a traveling exhibit. it was part of the Love Armor installation in Santa Fe last September, it was brought to Sandia Labs on National Coming Out Day last year, and in October, 2019, it will be going to El Paso.

Theresa N. Duke

 


PENTAGON LIFE

Of course it would be Sheer Lunacy to skip past a Pentagon security guard to get to your office. But I was surprised to be stopped by a guard who said my official ID issued by the United States European Command was no longer sufficient to get me in. Unless I was assigned to a Pentagon job, I could only get to my inner destination accompanied by a Pentagon-assigned employee.

For years my EUCOM ID had been good enough. I had even learned which Metro station, which Pentagon entrance, and which corridors to use on my frequent trips to the place. Not that day; new security rules.

The guard told me to use a lobby phone to call my counterpart inside and he would come get me and walk me in. This was before cell phones, so it meant I had to dig into my brief case to look for the phone number. While doing so, I became aware of an altercation across the lobby at another entrance.

I could see the back of a gray-haired man engaged in intense conversation with a security guard. Both men were obviouslypassionate about their discourse but they were not shouting, so I could not hear them. It also appeared that the security guard was not getting the best of the discourse.

When I finally found my colleague’s phone number, my security guard put his hand on my shoulder and said not to bother. The rule had just changed, and I was free to go in on my own.

I asked what happened, and he explained that the man at the next entrance was retired General Lyman Lemnitzer, former Supreme Allied Commander, Allied Powers, Europe. One more example that a few stars on your uniform can effect instantchange.

There is (or was) civility in the Pentagon in those days. On one of my visits, the Secretary of Defense called an “All Hands” meeting, and another colleague and I headed for the most secure wing of the famous Puzzle Palace.

My colleague was new to government service and had never been around the military, so when we arrived at the Secretary’s outer office and faced a buffet table laden with pastries and coffee urns, he approached a man in a white jacket pouring a cup of coffee and asked if he could please also have a cup.

“Absolutely,” was the response, and Admiral William J. Crowe, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and resplendent in Navy whites, turned, pot in hand, and fulfilled my colleague’s request. Sheer Lunacy is pleased to report that no task, it seems, is too small for our Defense Chiefs.

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Vintage Story is an e-newsletter authored by Ole Olson and published by the Story Inn, and is available free of charge to all who appreciate good wine. Vintage Story is published at each full moon. The author and the Story Inn specifically authorize the republication, reprinting and circulation of any issue Vintage Story so long as due credit is given to the author and to the Story Inn (which holds the copyright).


Caregivers Deserve to be Remembered

by Sue Pearson

As a caregiver and wife, I take care of a 100% disabled veteran husband (Tom) who proudly served our country for 24 years in the Air Force including serving in the Vietnam War who needs assistance with daily tasks, such as showering, administering medication, transportation to medical appointments and planning his day.  I am always thinking, what I need to do for the two of us?  He is a left leg amputee above the knee, caused from many health issues serving in the military. He is now retired.

As a caregiver, I fulfill many different roles: wife, friend, nurse, case manager, chauffeur, etc. so, I pray for God to give me wisdom to know which role to step into for the best care for every situation.

The demands of caring for a spouse can be overwhelming and builds stress with no end in sight.  There are times I have limited time and energy.  There are times my spouse becomes very irritable due to the pain or illnesses he suffers, which causes stress emotionally and physically on his body.

Caregivers need encouragement, inspiration, and faith to care for a loved one. When I feel overwhelmed, I turn to God and read Matthew 11: 28-30.

My spouse requires a lot of medical care.  He has gone through many surgeries, 3rd degree burns, speech, occupational and physical therapy, and even having cancer twice.

I always have to go and engage/fight for him, usually in a physician’s office or hospital, and help him through so many surgeries—and– even dying in December 2009, which God performed a miracle and brought him from being dead to living again.

It is difficult at times to try to keep up with the household chores, medical bills, plumbing issues, appliances breaking down, yardwork, food shopping, being a chauffeur, and sometimes, even burning the meals.

There are days I have no time for myself to relax or dedicate time to read God’s word or prayer time which causes bad or fearful thoughts.  I need to focus on prayers and think  about God’s gifts and promises, instead of our problems, which can be very difficult at times.   I have had to give up fun activities and time with friends and family to take care of my spouse.

As a caregiver for Tom, I find that it does affect me physically and emotionally. Also, as a caregiver, I sacrifice many social relationships and traveling with my spouse. That comes at a cost emotionally and I feel alone at times.

Furthermore, as a caregiver and wife, I feel guilty that I’m not doing enough for my spouse.  Still, I never think of myself as a caregiver.  I must trust in God above all else.  I couldn’t do this without God who calls us to care. Sometimes the medical conditions my spouse suffers from breaks my heart.

I must ask God to give me strength daily to care for Tom and rely on God’s power working through me instead of my own efforts.  We must trust God in every situation, which can be difficult at times while caring for one’s spouse.  I must aim to protect his dignity.  I must try to keep him active and engaged in activities which is very difficult due to his poor health.

I believe Tom paid a huge price in service of his country, but he has no regrets about serving his country.  It is an honor to take care of him, since we have been married for 41 years.  Caregivers are forgotten at times and need to be remembered.


New Mexico Welcomes a new Department of Veterans Service Secretary