For the First Time by Elena Kelly
It was the Fourth of July, and Stockton fireworks were cancelled due to severe city budget shortfalls. There has been a lot of bad news for Stockton this year, from being the foreclosure capital of the country, to being ranked number one as the most miserable places to live.
However, the Veterans' Parade sponsored by the Coalition of Stockton Veterans Organizations and the Karl Ross Post # 16 went on as scheduled. For the first time in the parade’s long history, there was a contingent of LGBT veterans who walked proudly the entire parade route. They walked behind the banner of the Central Valley Stonewall Democrat Club, carrying both the stars and stripes of the United States of America, and the rainbow flag of the LGBT community.
It was an unusually hot summer day and the turnout of spectators in downtown Stockton was smaller than usual, but we marched, heads held high, proud of the service we rendered to our country. The crowd that came out in spite of the heat greeted us with applause and cheers as we passed by. There was only one rude comment the entire day.
We were the architects of a milestone that created that day in our city’s history. Our friends, neighbors and fellow citizens took note that there have been, and still are LGBT veterans who support our country’s aims. We marched for our country, for honor, for equality, and for our fellow military members crushed daily under the weight of the failed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell legislation.
It was altogether fitting that we marched for the first time on Independence Day. There may not have been any city-sponsore d fireworks on this Fourth of July in 2009, but our proud contingent just might have provided the best fireworks of all.
More Photos of the Parade in Special Events