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
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.
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,
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.
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
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. "
Larry Whitt is a member of the Florida Gold
Coast Chapter of American Veterans for Equal
Rights (AVER) in Ft. Lauderdale. He is the
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.