A Salute to LGBT Veterans

Our country may be divided on many things, but when it comes to our troops, we've made up our mind: national service should be rewarded with national praise. The LGBT community is fortunate to have great war heroes and veterans amongst our ranks.

Ever since 371 BC, when 300 gay hoplites from the Sacred Band of Thebes flanked and broke the Spartans in the Battle of Leuctes, the LGBT community has been proving our might in battle. The greatest conqueror of all time, Alexander the Great, was bisexual. And while ancient history provides us with plenty of examples in military greatness, our modern era is filled with LGBT heroes as well.

Great American LGBT veterans include Marines like Eric Alva, the first man seriously injured in Iraq. Alva continued to fight as a veteran, working for the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Thanks to veterans like him, I can count myself among a generation of veterans who served before, during and after repeal.

And who can forget Daniel Choi? As an Army infantry officer and Arabic linguist, Choi led men into combat in Iraq. Choi sent shockwaves across the country with his announcement that he was gay on the Rachel Maddow show. After he was publicly ousted from the Army, his courageous act of protest led many to question the wisdom of a policy that put sexual orientation over national security.

As a Navy veteran myself, I'm pleased to say that high in the annals of LGBT history is Navy veteran Harvey Milk. Milk joined the Navy in 1951 and made it up to the rank of Lieutenant before retiring. Always proud of his service, Milk was still wearing his Navy belt buckle when he was murdered.

LGBT heroes aren't just a bunch of dudes, either - Helen Harder signed up for the Army Air Corps with her girlfriend during WWII and rose to become a flight training instructor during the war. The highest ranking, openly serving LGBT person in the American military is a woman: Brigadier General Tammy Smith. These heroes have blazed a trail for all women, and the fact they are LGBT only makes their service that much more exceptional.

It's important for us to be proud of our history. The LGBT community has endured discrimination and unfairness in the military, even to this day. Despite the difficulties, we've proven all throughout history: It doesn't matter if you are straight. It only matters if you shoot straight.

If you know an LGBT veteran or someone currently serving, please share this article and tell them that America is proud of all our heroes.