Remembering those we lost on Memorial Day

Dear Pride Family,

When I was asked to contribute to the Memorial Day edition of this newsletter, I recognized that this is not the first piece written about fallen service members within our community and found it important to share what has already been so eloquently stated. Please take a moment to read what the Shepherd Express said in 2018 and what Seattle Pride said in 2021.

As a reminder, Memorial Day is a time for all of us to remember the service members we lost while serving our country. Just as we all have our ways of mourning, we also have our ways of remembering the fallen. A few of those ways are to place a flag at their gravesite, honor them with a formal service, or wear a bracelet of remembrance in their honor.

Our fallen LGTBQIA+ military members each had a story, as do our current LGTBQIA+ service members and LGTBQIA+ Veterans. They are stories of struggle, pain, joy, freedom, the list is endless. Some may have had the opportunity to tell their story, but many did not. I believe there is power in every one of our stories. When we each share our story, we can open hearts and minds, express emotions that have likely been bottled up for years, and hopefully start to heal. There was a chapter of my life where I proudly served my country as a closeted lesbian in the US Army during the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) era.

Under DADT my career was under constant threat. I had to perpetually look over my shoulder, living the double life that many of us have endured at some point in our LGTBQIA+ journey. At social work functions, while everyone spoke about their families and hetero partners, I would stay silent, or sometimes, if I was feeling brave, speak about my “roommate”. I had coworkers make up fake email addresses and tell me to turn myself in or risk being turned in because I was a disgrace to the uniform. I thought I could trust certain friends enough to let them into my world, only to lose them due to fear of being guilty by association. My wife (who is also an Army Veteran) and I had to send coded letters and care packages while she was deployed (she was my girlfriend at the time) to minimize exposure of our life together. I loved being in the Army, but the life of lies I had to live, under fear of being found out and losing my career became too much and I left after 12 years of service.

This is only a sample of what I endured and doesn’t compare to the violence that LGTBQIA+ service members of the past and present have experienced. While the transgender community can openly serve in the military since 2021, as the mother of a transgender daughter, I would fear for the safety of my daughter should she express a desire to join the military. The bond between service members, especially at this time of the year, and particularly in our community, is strong. Let’s leverage this bond as a catalyst to advocate for increased safety for those who want to serve their country as loudly and proudly as they desire.

This Memorial Day, we honor those military service members in and out of our community who died while serving our country. To those I never met, who gave the ultimate sacrifice, as well as to my fallen West Point classmates and to those fallen whom I had the honor to serve with; be thou at peace.

With Pride,

Melissa Malone-Montgomery (she/her)
San Diego Pride Board Co-Chair

VA Research Document:


About San Diego Pride

San Diego Pride raises funds primarily through festival ticket and beverage sales, and through sponsorships, and exhibitor fees. These funds support San Diego Pride’s community philanthropy which has distributed more than $2.5 million in advancement of its mission to foster pride, equality, and respect for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities locally, nationally, and globally.