Recently, my husband ran into one of the guys on base that he felt had been avoiding him since the promotion. Clay had suspected, given this young man’s many religious tattoos, that he had a problem with Clay’s coming out. This time, however, the young man whipped out his iPhone and started scrolling through a plethora of photos of a common friend – attaching a lengthy narrative to each one. Clay just flat-out asked him why he was suddenly talking to him. The young man appeared confused. Clay then asked him if he had been avoiding him because he was gay. “No. I’m just not comfortable talking socially with Senior NCOs.”
Clay had never used his official office at his shop. He’s in the Guard and had decided to let the full-time Guardsman under him use it – preferring to simply have a desk next to the other guys in the main office. After his promotion, however, several of his peers approached him and told him he needed to reclaim his office as his own. At first he was offended; as he felt being “right in the thick of things” promoted the collaboration necessary to get the job done. But the military runs on a leadership hierarchy and he was reminded that such things were expected of him.
And thus arrived Clay’s first opportunity to decorate his own office ‘as he wished’. Soon there was a sofa, coffee table, dorm fridge (see – I refrained from calling it a beer fridge…) and the much-worshipped coffee maker. Then up on the wall went framed momentos from his military career. And there, on his desk for the first time, he placed a picture of the both of us. Together. Grinning foolishly for the camera, with his arm around my shoulder.
I wondered how this would be received, but the last of a series of photos that Clay texted me that day showed this: Two of his guys sprawled on the couch with their booted feet on the coffee table, another casually leaning against the wall with his hands in his pockets, and yet another tilting back in the chair next to his desk.
Clay decided to join our local VFW. Our town has a population of about 500, and the annual summer festival and parade is a pretty big deal. There’s the usual assortment of antique cars, logging trucks, emergency vehicles, local politicians and civic groups – all tossing candy to the families lined up on either side of the short parade route. Clay decided that this will be the first year he will march with the VFW in uniform. The mostly elderly, conservative contingent didn’t seem to have a problem with Clay’s joining (he even paid for a lifetime membership.) To my knowledge, it will be the first time an openly gay member of the military will march down Main Street – and on equal footing with his peers, too. Yeah – I’ll try not to be a sloppy mess on the sidelines… We’ll see how it goes.