Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

On Memorial Day, We Honor the Military Service of Our Gay Dead

gaymilitarySince time immemorial, Gay and Lesbian people have served their country with distinction.  LGBT Americans pause to remember and honor the service and sacrifice of all American service members, especially the ones who faced battle on two fronts: the battle for freedom and security for our country, and the battle against unreasoning homophobia.  This Memorial Day, The Unfinished Lives Project pauses to give thanks for the lives of three gay men who served their country, and died because their countrymen could not accept their sexual orientation: Petty Officer Third Class Allen R. Schindler, Jr., Chicago Heights, IL, sailor on the U.S.S. Belleau Wood; Private First Class Barry Winchell, Kansas City, MO, soldier at Fort Campbell, KY; and U.S. Army Veteran Michael Scott Goucher of East Stroudsburg, PA.

Allen Schindler bestSchindler, who was mercilessly harassed on board his ship, was murdered in 1992 by shipmates in a public toilet while on leave in Sasebo, Nagasaki, Japan.  His body was so ravaged by the attack that every major organ in his body was ruptured, his skull was crushed, and the medical examiner found sneaker tracks embedded in his chest and face.  The only way his mother could identify her son’s body was by a tattoo he had inked into his upper arm.  His main assailant, who openly declared that he was disgusted by homosexuals, said shortly after the murder, “I don’t regret it. I’d do it again. … He deserved it.”  The Navy has never been forthcoming about the slaying, and has repeatedly refused to release the report of the Japanese police about the crime.  Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) was officially enacted soon after Schindler’s murder by President Clinton. SLDN has continued to represent his mother in the courts.

winchellsmWinchell, who had been singled out for anti-gay ridicule by his barracks mates at Fort Campbell, was bludgeoned to death in 1999 by a fellow soldier wielding a baseball bat at his head and body while he was asleep.  Ironically, he was killed after an Independence Day celebration on base.  His hate crime murder and trial exposed one of the most notorious cover-ups of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) era.  His parents and SLDN contend that the Army betrayed him by violating its own DADT policies, failing to follow the best traditions of the Army in order to shield the chain of command, and exposing other gay soldiers to danger and dishonorable discharge.  The anti-gay climate of Fort Campbell was never sufficiently addressed in the wake of Winchell’s killing, and the base commander, General Robert T. Clark, was promoted despite the protests of SLDN and other LGBT advocacy organizations around the country.  His killer is serving a life sentence for murder in a federal military prison facility.

Michael Scott Goucher bustGoucher, who had been honorably discharged from the U.S. Army after a tour of duty in Alaska where he served in transport, was ambushed by two young men who stabbed him to death over 45 times according to autopsy records in 2009, arguably the first anti-LGBT hate crime murder victim of the year.  After returning to East Stroudsburg, Goucher worked as a high school janitor, captained the Neighborhood Watch in his area, and served as assistant organist at a local church.

These three represent many more loyal Americans who happened to be LGBT and have been stigmatized, drummed out of the service, and in the cases of these faithful guardians of our country, were killed because of deep-seated bias against members of the sexual minority.  They neither betrayed their country nor themselves.  For that, and for justice-sake, we cannot forget them.  At the request of SLDN, Servicemembers’ Legal Defense Network,  Chan Lowe drew this provocative tribute to homosexual Americans who have paid the supreme price to wear our nation’s uniform.  We offer it for your consideration on this Memorial Day 2009.

Chan Lowe SLDN cartoon

May 24, 2009 - Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, harassment, Heterosexism and homophobia, military, Stomping and Kicking Violence, U.S. Army | , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments

  1. Thank you for this post today. It means a great deal to me.

    Comment by kyoungpsyd | May 25, 2009

    • You are welcome, Ms. Young. Thanks for the encouragement.

      SVS

      Comment by unfinishedlives | May 25, 2009


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