by Tom Swann Hernandez, Founder and Commander
We are pleased to announce that America’s first LGBTQ Veterans Memorial in Cathedral City has a new web address and an improved web page. This memorial became the California LGBTQ Veterans Memorial in 2018 when Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation. California is the first and only state to have a memorial honoring our brave LGBTQ war dead.
The web site includes special letters from six American Presidents and four California Governors. Also, the protest flyer created by so-called late Rev. Fred Phelps. Cathedral City Police blocked the Phelps family in their attempt to toss urine on the memorial.
I led the effort to dedicate this historic memorial as the Founder and Commander of American Veterans (AMVETS) Post 66 in 2001. This was when LGBTQ in the military were required to serve in silence. This was nine years before the repeal of DADT. The dedication was a national news story.
In 2004 California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation to make our memorial a state memorial. KMIR TV did a feature story on how I persevered for fourteen years before finally our memorial became a state memorial. California has only two other state veteran memorials and they are located at the state capitol in Sacramento.
The memorial has a bronze plaque with the seal of the state of California. The California Secretary of State had to approve the seal being displayed on our memorial. The California LG BTQ Veterans Memorial was dedicated on April 27, 2019. This was also a national news story. There are many state web pages that feature our memorial.
The memorial since it was first dedicated has become a holy place where people of all faiths gather to pray for the souls of our war dead and deceased veterans. The mothers of slain gay Navy sailor Allen Schindler and murdered gay Army soldier Barry Winchell have spoken at the memorial. AMVETS Post 66 holds a solemn memorial service next to the memorial every five years for the anniversary of the memorial. Since 2001 when this memorial was dedicated, a similar memorial was dedicated in Chicago, Illinois. There are no other LGBTQ Veterans Memorials in the United States.
The historic memorial is the third public monument in America to honor Transgender people. The memorial is located at Desert Memorial Park, a public cemetery operated by the Palm Springs Cemetery District. The memorial is seen by more tourists at this cemetery than the graves of late Sonny Bono and Frank Sinatra.
Sadly, President Donald Trump is the only President to refuse to send a special letter about our memorial. President Joe Biden sent us a full page congratulatory letter that he personally signed and mailed to us last October. Senator Dianne Feinstein has also sent a special letter.
Our Post sells challenge coins of the memorial. We are so very grateful for Bill Kibler’s hard work. The web link is below: