by Karl Alvarez ‘84
On March 31st, I had the honor to represent ZoomU and Blue Alliance at the Inaugural KnightsOut Dinner at West Point. Conceived at our Blue Alliance Celebration in November 2011, the dinner was WoopU’s first opportunity to ‘come out’ on campus. The event hosted about 95 people with almost 35 cadets in attendance. Andrew Fitsimmons and Nate Gooden who attended our Blue Alliance Celebration were in attendance.
The dinner was like our first event: a very formal, military affair. 1LT Chris Antal, an Army Reserve chaplain, opened with a remarkable prayer that addressed every challenge to LGBT integration in the Army and at West Point. Lieutenant Antal’s parish, a Unitarian Universalist congregation close to the Academy, made a large contribution to KnightsOut and donated the evenings ‘take away’ in the form of a small book [looks a LOT like my ’84 Contrails] called “Bless All Who Serve.” Each copy of the book was personally dedicated to its recipient by Lt. Antal. Late in the evening, Chris mentioned that each cadet in attendance had taken a book and he wanted to send a copy to our cadets. I, therefore, traveled home with three copies for our graduating Firsties.
KnightsOut had four cadets and a cadet candidate speak about life at the Academy after repeal of DADT. There are significant regulatory obstacles to interactions between cadets and preppies at West Point. The Prep School recently moved onto the campus. The presentation of a cadet candidate marked a significant tide-change in the discussion of LGBQ members at the Military Academy.
I had the additional honor of being placed at the same table as Aubrey Sarvis, the outgoing Executive Director of Servicemembers’ Legal Defense Network (SLDN). Andrew Fitzsimmons was also at our table and provided a unique perspective on cadet life. The evening was built around the presentation of an important award to Jonathan Hopkins, USMA ’02, who was discharged under DADT but continued to assist DoD in implementation of repeal. John was highly decorated and has been one of the many faces of DADT in the media. A straight-ally, classmate of John’s detailed the character and leadership that John Hopkins brought to every unit in which he worked. The award itself was “a big cadet head” which was completely lost on this Zoomie so familiar with awards being in the shape of elegant birds.
Lessons I learned at WoopU: 1) We did a good thing in November with our dinner of historic significance, 2) Cadets have more interesting things to say than most of us, 3) We’d be well-served to attract national LGBT leaders to future dinners, 4) Blue is prettier than gray and less draining on my happy-meter, and 5) KnightsOut and Blue Alliance must work, in conjunction with USNA Out and groups from Coast Guard and Merchant Marine, to identify and celebrate our common values and missions. Our support of our cadets can only benefit from this cross-feed of goodwill and bonhomie