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Convention Report and Photo Gallery

 

AVER Elects Vietnam Vet
LTC Steve Loomis, USA Ret.
as Leader for Post DADT Era

 

By Denny Meyer


Change of Command
Photo by Mike Yost

American Veterans For Equal Rights, America’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender veterans’ service organization, serving active service members and veterans since 1990, has elected Lieutenant Colonel Steve Loomis, US Army Ret., as president at its bi-yearly national convention in Denver.  LTC Loomis will lead the activist organization through the early post DADT era, focusing on equal benefits, advocacy, and equal treatment of all service members and veterans.

According to AVER President Loomis "With the successful repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, led principally by gay veterans, we must now turn to insuring fair and equal rights are extended to our active service members, that equal access to Veterans Administration is ensured, and that our transgender fellow service members can equally serve our country.   LGBT vets will continue to be at the front of the fight for equal rights to marry and for the passage of the Employment Non-discrimination Act."

Stressing pride in service and inclusiveness, AVER President Loomis outlined some of AVER's goals to be achieved during his tenure including, insuring that our right to serve comes with all the benefits of serving our country; advocating the right of all veterans and service member to marry regardless of where they live; supporting the right of Transgender patriots to serve openly and receive full benefits; and "Planning, funding and starting a Veterans Assistance Center to assist LGBT veterans to find help for crisis intervention, PTSD, TBI, employment, education, medical benefits and safe social opportunities in an atmosphere of understanding and fellowship."

In addition to the election of LTC Loomis as President, the bi-yearly convention re-elected Julz Carey to continue her role as VP, Apolonio Munoz as Secretary, and past president Danny Ingram as Treasurer.

LTC Loomis enlisted in the U.S. Army, was commissioned an Infantry Lieutenant and served in Vietnam as a Platoon Leader in the 4th Infantry Division.  Awarded two Bronze Stars, a Purple Heart, and the Combat Infantry Badge, he returned to civilian life, and joined the Army Reserves in Albuquerque in multiple Engineer command and staff position.  He is a graduate of the University of New Mexico. He served with the 244th Engineer Battalion in Colorado; then, as a Lieutenant Colonel, he served as the Chief of Military Education for the U.S. Army Reserve.  While an Inspector General, LTC Loomis conducted a ground breaking sexual harassment survey that included analysis of perceptions of gays just prior to the enactment of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.  As the Chief, Engineer War Plans for III Corps following the death of North Korea's Kim Il Song, he deployed to Korea to rewrite engineer plans for the defense of Korea.

When he was awarded a fourth Meritorious Service Medal, and was selected for promotion to Colonel in 1995, he was discovered to be gay. He was discharged just five days before he was eligible for his 20-year retirement, but won his retirement in Federal Court in 2005.  LTC Loomis founded the New Mexico Chapter of AVER. He has been interviewed on CBS 60 Minutes, and has spoken and written extensively to support gays serving in the military.

"LGBT vets have served our country since the Revolutionary War", LTC Loomis stated, "and now gladly do so openly and proudly and will continue to do so.  We honor those, straight and gay, who have worked to get us and our nation this far, and recognize we have much work remaining."

The AVER Convention in Denver featured all the usual pomp, ceremony, color guards, strategic meetings, speeches, and awards of a veterans' service organization, but also included elaborately decorated veterans' hats, late sumptuous dinners and even later partying at some of Denver's famed gay night spots.

The convention's keynote speaker, Iraq veteran Eric Alva, spoke with eloquent passion about his experience; describing in detail the moments before and after his injury from and exploding IED, as well as the weeks and months and years that followed.  With pathos and humor he led AVER's conventioneers through the course of his life from young patriot to courageous campaigner for our right to serve in Pride.  AVER awarded him its highest honor for his service to our nation and community, the Leonard P. Matlovich Medal for Distinguished Leadership.  As USAF Tech Sgt Matlovich had done some thirty years earlier; USMC SSG Alva was grievously injured in service to our nation, awarded a Purple Heart, and then bravely dedicated his efforts to speaking out for our duty, our honor, and our right to serve our nation.

Other speakers included VA VISN 19 Chief Medical Officer Dr. Leigh Anderson, who won a standing ovation for his stated dedication to providing relevant and competent VA treatment for our patriotic LGBT volunteers and veterans.  Brigadier General Tammy Smith, USAR, directly addressed the convention via recorded video, warming the hearts of everyone present with her support, love, and dedication to service.  The full video will be available for viewing via the AVER website (www.aver.us).  And, Military Partners and Families Coalition spokespersons Michelle McLeod and Andy Blevins inspired convention attendees with the tireless work that MPFC is doing on behalf of our LGBT military families.

Outgoing AVER President Danny Ingram read aloud a letter to the AVER Convention from the Commander In Chief, Barack Obama, in which the President thanked our veterans for their patriotic service, selflessness and sacrifice, and AVER for its advocacy so that, "our patriots no longer have to hide who they love in order to serve the country they love."

Ingram led AVER through the repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy; his letter advocating repeal was read aloud, during hearings on television, by the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Carl Levin.  He was present when President Obama signed the repeal of DADT.  In his farewell remarks, outgoing AVER President Ingram reminded us of the decades during which we were forced to lie about who we are, and who we love, as well as of the ongoing trauma of transgender patriots who still may not serve openly.  He noted that AVER's ongoing vital mission, now, is to "ensure that our service members, along with their spouses and children, are fully respected, rewarded, and cared for while they serve in the military, and then receive respectful, competent, and quality care from the VA."

AVER Convention 2013 Photo Gallery


L-R: AVER President LTC Steve Loomis, USA Ret., SSG
Eric Alva, Past President Danny Ingram; Photo by Mike Yost

 


LTC Steve Loomis


VA VISN 19 CMO Dr. Leigh Anderson

American Veterans For Equal Rights (AVER), is the nation’s all-volunteer Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender veterans’ service organization, advocating equality and equal benefits in our armed services and for all our patriotic veterans.  www.aver.us

2013 GayMilitarySignal