One year ago today I left on a road trip

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been a year, then again, I can’t believe it’s only been a year. One year ago today, August 25, 2010, I was living in Brooklyn, NY,  got in Bill’s Subaru and hit the road for the next 28 days. During those 28 days I traveled 10,167 miles and photographed 46 of the 65 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Veterans featured in Proud to Serve. During those 28 days, I heard stories of lies, hiding, betrayal, honor and pride, a community in voices.

I returned to Brooklyn on September 21 and the next three weeks were spent editing and printing 65 18-inch x 24-inch prints for the exhibit at the LGBT Center in Manhattan. I also decided to design and print a limited-edition (of 100) photography book (Sold Out). Don’t be sad, if you didn’t get a one of the limited-edition copies, you can own a reproduction on Magcloud .

On November 11, 2010 Proud to Serve opened at the LGBT Center in Manhattan. That evening also included a panel discussion on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” with Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart, author of the definitive work on the policy (Unfriendly Fire) Nathaniel Frank, and Center for American Progress Senior VP for External Affairs Winnie Stachelberg. The panel was moderated by attorney and political strategist Richard Socarides, who served as White House Special Assistant under President Clinton.

I walked around The Center that night and saw the faces of all the brave men and women who I had the honor to photograph, heard everyone talking about how they were so moved by the stories. It was worth the time, energy, sweat and tears that went into this project to see the public reception that night.

After two years and some change,  on December 1st we packed up our belongings into a Penske, said goodbye to Brooklyn and drove back to Austin, Texas.

On December 18 the Senate voted 65 to 31 to pass the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

On March 23, 2011 I received a signed thank you note from President Obama (he received a copy of my book from Winnie Stachelberg).

Proud to Serve is represented by Redux Pictures and has been published in several newspapers and magazines in the United States, England, Spain, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden.

The photos were exhibited this past June at The Q Center in Portland, OR. This coming November, 20 portraits are going to be in a group show with Catherine Opie and Sophia Wallace at the Clifford Gallery at Colgate University in Hamilton, NY, where I will give an Artist Talk and classroom lecture (yikes!).

I have accomplished what I wanted this project to do, to put a human face on the statistics of gays in the military, to share the stories of LGBT American Servicemembers who served our country with honor and pride even though they had to lie and hide a part of themselves to do so. Though I am no longer as actively documenting this project, I am continuing to photograph and record the stories of LGBT veterans.

On September 20th, 2011 a Servicemember’s sexuality will no longer be grounds for discharge from the United States Armed Forces.

Over the next 28 days I will post images taken during the road trip along with portraits of the veteran(s) taken on that day.

DAY 1- August 25: 2010, drove from Brooklyn to Washington, D.C to visit with Danny Hernandez and then continued on to Potomac, Maryland to visit with René Pedraza del Prado. After visiting with René I drove onto Raleigh, NC to spend the night at the home of my future mother-in-law.

Danny Hernandez was in the ROTC and the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M from 2005 - 2009. Hernandez enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2008, and shortly after boot camp, someone reported him for homosexual conduct. He is in the process of being discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. He now works for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a watchdog and policy organization dedicated to ending discrimination against and harassment of military personnel affected by DADT.

Seaman René Pedraza del Prado joined the Navy in 1978 and served aboard the U.S.S. Jason AR-8. After he was “outed” and word got around of his sexuality René sought legal counsel from the LGBT Legal Defenses Fund in San Diego and was honorably discharged for homosexual conduct in 1981.

Here is the link to the original first post:

All images ©Jo Ann Santangelo 2010- can not be copied, printed, posted or reproduced without permission.


About Jo Ann Santangelo

Austin based freelance multimedia documentary photographer and storyteller.
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