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« James Doohan, Royal Canadian Army (1938-1945) | Main | Leonard Nimoy, US Army Reserves (1953-1955) »
Saturday
Apr282012

Harvey Milk, US Navy (1951-1955)


Harvey Milk (Politician)
b. 22 May 1930 - d. 27 Nov. 1978
US Navy, 1951-1955
(Korean War, Diving officer) 

In 1951, after graduating from New York State College for Teachers in Albany, NY, gregarious and outgoing Harvey Milk joined the US Navy. He enlisted during the Korean war conflict where he served aboard the submarine rescue ship USS Kittiwake (ASR-13) as a diving officer. He was later transferred to San Diego where he served as a diving instructor. In 1955, he was honorably discharged at the rank of lieutenant, junior grade.

Joining up to serve one's country was not a unique idea in the Milk household - in fact it may have been expected as both of Harvey's parents were Navy veterans. His mother, Minerva Karns, was an early feminist activist who joined the Yeomanettes, a group agitating for the inclusion of women in the US Navy during World War I while his father, William Milk, served on a sub crew during the war. 

Milk was proud of his military service, and wore a brass belt buckle bearing his Navy insignia until the day he died. When Milk entered the political arena, rumors circulated that he had been dishonorably discharged for being gay, but this was untrue.

In 2009, President Obama awarded Milk the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In April 2012, Congressman Bob Filner has organized a letter writing campaign to the Navy to consider naming their next ship to be christened after the late gay advocate and politician to acknowledge the military's repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell." I believe Harvey would approve - as he said himself - 

“all young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential.”

Much like Rock Hudson - Milk was a proud veteran who was not allowed to serve his country as his authentic self - yet he did it anyway. It's important to acknowledge the men and women who served in silence for the betterment of all of our lives. Anyways - changing the subject for a second - it's pretty amazing how much Sean Penn resembles the real Harvey Milk in his youth - nice casting Hollywood!


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