By Greg Hernandez
During a recent Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting, Los Angeles LGBT Center Senior Services client and retired U.S. Army Sgt. Belita Edwards spoke of how proud she is to have served in the military.
“I served in the Vietnam era when it was difficult for women—we had to pave the way,” she recalled. “They wanted to see if we could handle it. And, of course, we could.”
Edwards was among those honored by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl on June 18 for their “significant contributions” to the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Veterans Initiative, which provides services and resources including housing and medical assistance, health and wellness classes, and a safe environment for LGBT military Veterans to connect.
Clayo Hughes, who served in the Marine Corps for six years, also spoke.
“I am very proud to be able to be a Marine who happens to be gay,” Hughes said. “The Center has created a safe space for us and allowed us to reach out to other military people to bring forth pride and humanity in very powerful ways.”
Kuehl presented certificates to the Veterans and Center Senior Services staff members “In recognition for your courage to let yourself be seen and heard during a time of historic transition as the LGBTQ community gains full equality.”
Michael LaBorde (U.S. Navy) and William Duckworth (U.S. Marine Corps Reserve) were also honored.
“After I got out of the Navy, it took me a long time to find a place where I felt safe,” LaBorde said after the meeting. “I’m really proud to be a part of the Veterans group at the Center.”
Duckworth described being recognized by supervisors as “an amazing experience. It gave me goose bumps.”
The Veterans are also all members of the nation’s first and only LGBT-identified military guard and the first guard to include the rainbow flag.
For more information, visit lalgbtcenter.org/seniors.