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AVER'S Newest Chapter
Introducing: AVER West Tennessee
by Tim Smith

In 1647, Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers addressed the English Parliament. A line from their address stands out to me as a former Marine and gay man: “On becoming soldiers, we have not ceased to be citizens.”

Indeed, the backbone of this country has been and will always be its “Citizen Soldier.” As such, it is important to remember that while we may give up a comfortable bed, regular nights at home, our choice of hairstyle or attire, we should never be forced to give up our unique identities as gay Americans. At the dawn of this new and historic presidential administration, a slow but sure sea-change is coming. But it will not happen without dedicated veterans such as you and me continuing to fight on in this new battle.For the majority who do not know me, my name is Tim Smith. I am acting President of the newest chapter of the American Veterans for Equal rights – AVER West Tennessee. I served four years and three months in the United States Marine Corps from May 2001-August 2005. At the time of my discharge, I was a Corporal and the S4 Chief for VMFA(AW)-332 at MCAS Beaufort, SC. We were 23 days from leaving for Iraq, and I had just “extended to re-enlist,” when the notice of discharge came.

A retired Naval Captain and former head of the Tri-Command Area’s Chaplaincy Corps turned local minister officially “outed” me to my command. What followed, as they say, is history. I received an Honorable Discharge but accompanying it were the words “Homosexual Admission” and the letter-code “RE4.” My quest for a full, 20-year career halted.

 But the hope for it did not end.

I jumped headlong into my new role as a soldier in what has now been dubbed “The Battle of the Ban.” I worked as a founding member of the nationwide, spring 2006 “Call To Duty” tour. I spoke with small groups, radio hosts, newspapers and magazines including The New York Times and The Advocate.  I am appearing on a billboard in Memphis, Tennessee as part of the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center’s new campaign to promote awareness and diversity within the community. My role is to promote awareness of the service of gay veterans. (A total of five billboards bearing differing messages of diversity are being displayed throughout the month going through National Coming Out Day on October 11th).

Picture provided courtesy of the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center, www.MGLCC.org"

My hope is for the gay veterans of Tennessee to rise to the occasion of our storied history as “volunteers.” I envision a group of gay veterans sitting in the offices of our state and national Congress men and women on “Lobby Days.” I see AVER representatives speaking at local colleges, VFW and American Legion chapters and participating in local festivals throughout the state. Most of all I see AVER uniting into a formidable, cohesive unit the current band of brothers and sisters loosely knit together by geography but tightly held by bonds of service. 

But it will take volunteers. And we’ve never needed volunteers as we do know.

If you would like to become a member of AVER West Tennessee, contact me at avertn@yahoo.com. “Veterans and Volunteers… Always.”

  2009 Gay Military Signal