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Stories from the Frontlines: A Love Letter to a G.I.



"Stories from the Frontlines: Letters to President Barack Obama” is a new media campaign launched to underscore the urgent need for congressional action and presidential leadership at this critical point in the fight to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). Every weekday morning as we approach the markup of the Defense Authorization bill in the Senate, SLDN and a coalition of voices supporting repeal, will share an open letter to the President from a person impacted by this discriminatory law. The Defense Authorization bill represents the best legislative vehicle to bring repeal to the president’s desk. It also was the same vehicle used to pass DADT in 1993. By working together, we can help build momentum to get the votes! We ask that you forward and post these personal stories. 


May 28, 2010Letter to a G.I.

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

For the past month, we have sent you personal letters from those harmed by “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” With the votes in the House and the Senate Armed Services Committee, we are bringing our series to a close. The final letter we are sharing with you was written by a World War II soldier to another service member. It is a love letter penned on the occasion of their anniversary.

The letter, which follows below, was published in September 1961 by ONE Magazine – an early gay magazine based out of Los Angeles. In 2000, Bob Connelly, an adjunct professor of LGBT studies at American University, found a copy of the letter in the Library of Congress. He brought the letter to the attention of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network last month.

We sincerely thank Mr. Connelly for his research and the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives for granting permission for the letter to be republished.

Please accept this letter on the behalf of all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender service members on active-duty, in the reserve and in the National Guard; those who have been discharged; and those who didn’t enlist because of the discriminatory law now being dismantled.

With great respect,
Former Specialist 4th Class Aubrey Sarvis
United States Army

The letter as published by ONE Magazine:

Dear Dave,

This is in memory of an anniversary – the anniversary of October 27th, 1943, when I first heard you singing in North Africa. That song brings memories of the happiest times I’ve ever known. Memories of a GI show troop – curtains made from barrage balloons – spotlights made from cocoa cans – rehearsals that ran late into the evenings – and a handsome boy with a wonderful tenor voice. Opening night at a theatre in Canastel – perhaps a bit too much muscatel, and someone who understood. Exciting days playing in the beautiful and stately Municipal Opera House in Oran – a misunderstanding – an understanding in the wings just before opening chorus.

Drinks at “Coq d’or” – dinner at the “Auberge” – a ring and promise given. The show 1st Armoured – muscatel, scotch, wine – someone who had to be carried from the truck and put to bed in his tent. A night of pouring rain and two very soaked GIs beneath a solitary tree on an African plain. A borrowed French convertible – a warm sulphur spring, the cool Mediterranean, and a picnic of “rations” and hot cokes. Two lieutenants who were smart enough to know the score, but not smart enough to realize that we wanted to be alone. A screwball piano player – competition – miserable days and lonely nights. The cold, windy night we crawled through the window of a GI theatre and fell asleep on a cot backstage, locked in each other’s arms – the shock when we awoke and realized that miraculously we hadn’t been discovered. A fast drive to a cliff above the sea – pictures taken, and a stop amid the purple grapes and cool leaves of a vineyard.

The happiness when told we were going home – and the misery when we learned that we would not be going together. Fond goodbyes on a secluded beach beneath the star-studded velvet of an African night, and the tears that would not be stopped as I stood atop the sea-wall and watched your convoy disappear over the horizon.

We vowed we’d be together again “back home,” but fate knew better – you never got there. And so, Dave, I hope that where ever you are these memories are as precious to you as they are to me.

Goodnight, sleep well my love.

Brian Keith

(Reprinted with permission of ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, http://www.onearchives.org, ONE Magazine, September 1961)

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5 Comments

Comments for this entry are closed.

Bill on May 31, 2010 at 11.58 am

The poetry of Brian Keith’s love letter is profound and represents the love and tragedy of millions of American LGBT servicepersons.  On May 27, 2010 in Congress, 234 Representatives and 16 Senators, mostly Democrats and a handful of courageous Republicans, voted for this letter.  194 Representatives and 12 Senators, both Democrats and Republicans, voted against this letter.
    The motivations of the “no-voters” may appear varied and complex, but what they have in common is being on the wrong side of American history.  Those who resist Open Service now are cut from the same cloth as too many “good” Americans who supported slavery, were intolerant to religions other than theirs, hated every new group of American immigrants, resisted open military service for all races and for women.
    A little history:  October 27, 1943 was only half way through America’s participation in European WW II.  Sicily had been taken, but in Italy Anzio and Monte Cassino lay ahead.  The Normandy Invasion would not take place until June 6, 1944.  The Battle of the Bulge in December 1944.  The end of the War in Europe May 7, 1945, more than 1 ½ years after Brian Keith wrote his love letter. 
    I assume “Johnson” above is still serving in uniform.  As to his question “what now?” we have a solid beachhead, but a long battle still ahead.  A hateful few will go to any ends to block Open Service, and even if it successfully passes with the FY 2011 National Defense Authorization Act, there will be further months and hazards.  There are senior leaders who do not respect the goals of their Commander-in-Chief and hope the Pentagon Working Group’s study will find enough intolerance to derail an end to DADT.  Conservative media has cameras at the ready to exaggerate any negative events that take place between now and repeal.  Enough real crises like war and oil spills will be excuses for delay.  So the battle is not won.  SLDN and all those everywhere that worked so hard for the May 27, 2010 victory know they must continue unabated.  And like with racism, religious intolerance, sexism, etc, homophobia will never fully end—-but at least, after we reach our own May 7, 1945 victory, it will no longer be sustained by statute in our Armed Services.

Johnson on May 30, 2010 at 11.43 pm

Wow, this letter is truly both touching and beautiful.  The language and narrative seem so foreign and eloquent.  If you’re going to end this campaign, this is a beautiful way to do it… the only problem I have is why is sldn stopping here?  With how many thousands of us serving and still no resolution, are we already dry of material?  I find that hard to believe.

I don’t know about everyone else, but I have found these tales to be extremely motivating.  For the first time ever I have felt that I am not alone, and this blog in particular has played a big part in keeping my hope alive that I might actually be able to serve openly.  I feel like there should be something that I can do to help.  The only question is what now?

Tom Field in Arlington, Virginia on May 28, 2010 at 10.34 pm

I’ve read Brian Keith’s letter several times during the last few days.  And each time I do, I find myself crying. 

On this Memorial Day, I am grateful for this chance to salute two veterans: Brian Keith and the man he loved.

Tom Field

Alice AN on May 28, 2010 at 01.28 pm

How can one read that letter and not see the love between these two men as a divine gift.

What were the odds against these two men, and both so inclined, finding each other? What does one call Brain’s tribute to the beauty of a love remembered instead of the misery of war? I’d call it a miracle.

Chance B. Birdsall/Desert Storm/Iraq War Veteran a in Austin Texas USA  on May 28, 2010 at 11.34 am

This is a Beautiful story that touched me deeply…...even more so while reading about Brian Keith’s wonderful connection in friendship with Dave in the beginning of their journey while serving in WWII overseas. I am moved emotionally reading about these two young men from back during the war, and those emotions I was feeling were from realizing how much Brian and Dave built from sharing so much close time they had together.

I was happy knowing the two of them shared more than just a friendship during their very special times together, they truly fell in love…. wink

My heart saddened when I read of Dave and Brian having to say good bye,  being seperated. And after all these years Brian still misses him and carries so much unconditional love for his dear and sweet man who he naturally fell in love with. God Bless you both Brian and Dave….May you both be blessed & reunited together in the Heavens above….Amen. Thank you for sharing your story,  and I appreciated it very much. wink

I respectfully would like to send out many prayers and blessings in closing to all our Brave men and women serving in uniform in the United States Military both on active duty, and in the reserves praying for your safe trip back Home. And for all our Proud Veterans too I wish you a Happy Memorial Day! Thank you for your service and God Bless each one of you….

Sincerely,

Mr. Chance Birdsall
AZ3 US Navy 1990-95
Desert Storm/Iraq War Veteran
SLDN Captain Austin Texas
(512) 294-9322
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
http://www.facebook.com/chance.birdsall