home about media center archive history links subscribe

Larry Whitt

The Honor of Service

Loving the Navy

Larry Whitt was born in
in Barnwell, South Carolina in 1952, and grew up in Florida with three older and one younger sibling.  Throughout his high school years, it had always been his life plan to join the Navy.  Soon after graduating, in 1970, he had to lie about his sexual orientation to get in, of course.  According to Larry, "It hurt to lie but I wanted to serve my country more than anything else in the world. I had made plans for my life’s work in the U.S. Navy.   I had a great uncle who had spent thirty years in the U.S. Army, my dad had spent four years in the Army during World War II, my brother Charles who was in the Army and the National Guard, one cousin who was doing twenty years in the U.S. Army and was on his third tour of duty in Viet Nam, and another cousin who was a Marine in Viet Nam."

Altogether, Larry Whitt served for twelve years in the US Navy, leaving as a Petty Officer First Class.  Coming from a small town as a young man, he grew to more fully understand and accept himself as he moved from duty station to duty station.  His experience was not unlike that of many young gay Americans who served their country from the early days of WWII, discovering their self confidence and gaining worldliness while in the service.  He recounts his years of service to his country below:

"My first duty station was at the transit barracks in Charleston, South Carolina, I received my orders to my first ship, as it turned out I was to be stationed aboard the USS Compass Island (AG 153) home port, Brooklyn Naval Yard, New York. I reported to the Compass Island while she was in dry dock at Charleston, South Carolina. The ship finally finished repairs and headed out for sea trials in November of 1971 and we got to our home port in Brooklyn, New York in December of 1971. Here I was a young nineteen year old sailor from Tampa, Florida on my own and free to check out life in New York City.

My life took on an entirely new path and I started to find out about myself there in New York.  I knew from then on my life would never be the same again. I was not alone.  I spent the next year or so getting used to my new found self respect.

 I made Petty Officer Third Class; the Navy needed people to go T.A.D. (Temporary Additional Duty) to help with the closure of Viet Nam. So I was sent to Subic Bay in the Philippines, to work in the TNPO.  I found myself so well suited to Navy life that it was there I made up my mind to stay in the Navy for the long haul, to travel and be myself.

I'd have to say that my years in the Navy were the best years of my life.  I found a love for the Navy and right after making E-4 (petty officer third class) I knew I wanted to make a career of the Navy.  From the Philippines, I returned home to my home port of New York City, and a few months later re-enlisted for four more years in the Navy. I got orders to the USS Sierra (AD 18) homeport in Charleston, South Carolina. It was good duty and I was able to live off base and find out more about myself.  On that ship, I made Petty Officer Second Class. I was stationed in Charleston, South Carolina from 1973 to 1975.

Charleston was a great town, nothing like New York City, but still a good town with lots of new friends to make and lots of new things to experience. I hung out at the Petty Officer Club with my buddies at lunch and after work. My Chief knew that I was gay. The bonding was wonderful.

After my stay on the USS Sierra (AD 18) I was transferred to shore duty at the Pentagon, I was assigned to the Office of the Joint Chief Of Staff, Security Force. I was stationed in DC from August 1975 until July 1979. During this time my brother Richard who came to live with me, he finished school and then enlisted in the Air Force and discharged in 1982 after being outed by an ex-boyfriend who was an Airman First Class who wanted out because he did not want to go to his next duty station in Alaska.

I have to say this was a great duty station for me and that many of the enlisted as well as officers shared the same sexual identity as I did. Then I was transferred back to sea duty aboard the USS Caloosahatchee (AO 98) an Oiler out of Norfolk, Virginia. I love this ship and crew.  I was on the Caloosahatchee from November 1979 until July of 1980.

I then put into to go to the West Coast. I got orders to the USS Coral Sea (CV 43) I was stationed aboard her from September 1980 until October 1982 when I was discharged from the Navy after 12 years of service.

I had requested this discharge for fear of being turned in for being gay. My department head Lieutenant Commander told me to rip up my request and report back to my post.  I knew it was too late to do that because of the chain of command my chief as well as my division officer had already signed off on the chit.  The saddest day of my life was when I turned in my Military ID and walked off the ship for the last time. "

Currently, Larry Whitt is a member of the Florida Gold Coast Chapter of American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER) in Ft. Lauderdale.  He is the chapter's Color Guard Coordinator.

In his career as a Navy postal clerk, Petty Officer Whitt received the Outstanding Sailor Award aboard the USS Compass Island, and was a Sailor of the Month aboard the USS Caloosahatchee.  He was honorably discharged from the USS Coral Sea (CV 43)  in 1982.

  2010 Gay Military Signal