Proud to Serve is a portrait project by photographer Jo Ann Santangelo, a recent graduate of ICP. She has spent the last two years traveling to 31 states and photographing men and women who served or were discharged under the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. According to Santangelo’s introduction to the project, there are an estimated 65,000 gay servicemembers on active duty on the military – all hiding their sexuality – and over 14,000 people who have been discharged for being gay since the policy came into effect in 1993. Given the ongoing problems of military recruitment, it’s hard to imagine any reasonable justification for removing competent, committed soldiers from active duty. Doing so on the basis of who they have sex with simply defies all reasonable logic. I wonder sometimes how people who support this policy (same question for opponents of marriage rights) can justify such blatant bigotry. Do they just not care? Or do they use some circular reasoning that veils it? Reading through Santangelo’s site, one of the stories I was most touched by was that of Denise Jacinto and Sharrie Richards. They’re photographed, smiling, in their kitchen, and their body language and demeanor is similar, in that way couples who have been together a long time can grow to be. Both retired as Lieutenant Colonels from the Army after twenty years of service, it says quite simply, “in order to be together.”
Click “Read More” for additional stories from the project.