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“What Do You Think Our Boys Fought For On Omaha Beach?”

Jim Burroway

October 22nd, 2009

World War II veteran Phillip Spooner of Biddeford, Maine gave this moving testimony on April 22, 2009.

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I am 86 years old, a lifetime Republican, and an active VFW Chaplan. I still serve three hospitals and two nursing homes, and I also serve Meals on Wheels for nine years. My wife of 54 years, Jenny, died in 1997. Together we had four children including one gay son. All four of our boys were in service.

I was born on a potato farm north of Caribou and Perham, where I was raised to believe that all men are created equal, and I never forgot that. I served in the U.S. Army in 1942 to 1945, in the First Army as a medic and as an ambulance driver. I worked with every outfit over there including Patton’s Third Army. I saw action in all five major battles in Europe including the Battle of the Bulge. My unit was awarded a Presidential Citation for transporting more patients with fewer actions than any other ambulance unit in Europe. And I was in the liberation of Paris. After the war, I carried POWs back from Poland, Hungary and Yugoslavia, and also hauled hundreds of injured Germans back to Germany.

I’m here today because of a conversation I had last June when I was voting. A woman at my polling place asked me, “Do you believe in equality of gay and lesbian people?”

I was pretty surprised to be asked a question like that. It made no sense to me. Finally I asked her, “What do you think our boys fought for on Omaha Beach?”

[Cheers and applause]

I have seen so much blood and guts, so much suffering, so much sacrifice — for what? For freedom and equality. These are the values that make America a great nation, one worth dying for.

I give talks to eighth-grade teachers about World War II and I don’t tell them about the horror. Maybe I have to invite them to the ovens of Buchenwald and Dachau. I’ve seen with my own eyes the consequences of caste systems and tit makes some people less than others or second class.

Never again. We must have equal rights for everyone. It’s what this country was started for.

It takes all kind of people to make a World War. It doesn’t make sense that some people who love each other can and others can’t just because of who they are. This is what we fought for in World War II, that idea that we can be different and still be equal.

My wife and I did not raise four sons with the idea that three of them would have a certain set of rights, but our gay child would be left out. We raised them all to be hardworking, proud and loyal Americans. They all did good.

I think if two adults who love each other want to get married, they should be able to. Everybody is supposed to be equal in equality in this country. Let gay people have the right to marry. Thank you.

Update: Thanks to Matt Algren for his assistance in deciphering Mr. Spooner’s accent.



Matt Algren
October 22nd, 2009 | LINK

I transcribed the speech yesterday over on my blog. The town name is Perham. It’s way up north near the border. And the unintelligible because of the applause is “Maybe I have to invite them to the ovens at Buchenwald and Dachau.” I think there are some other spots where he misread (“It takes all kinds to make a world war”).

It’s a great speech. We need more like Mr. Spooner.

October 22nd, 2009 | LINK

Wow! Made me tear up.

Our side is winning, folks!

Regan DuCasse
October 22nd, 2009 | LINK

“…we can be different and still be equal.”
My late father was also a vet of WW2. He had to suffer the indignity of segregation and marginalized services like scut work and no ammo for black soldier’s gun.

And many blacks returned from that service to an America or stayed and participated in making sacrifices for everyone’s freedom and rights, only to still be regarded as less than worthy of those hard fought for rights with the distinct outrage of Jim Crow and de facto discrimination and bigotry in other parts of this country.

I see this same indignity directed at gay servicemen and women. And. It. Must. Stop.

Mr. Spooner said ALL of his sons were in service. And they ‘did good’.
He’s right.
His one gay son should be no exception to the privileges he’s more than earned for everyone.

October 22nd, 2009 | LINK

Oh, wow. I saw just a snippet of this, but the whole thing is so powerful.

People my age (35) and close see the likes of Pat Robertson and Phyllis Schafly and sometimes express hope that when the elders are gone, the world will be a bit kinder to LGBT people. (I am putting this far more politely than they do.) Those who say such things become what they hate. They need to listen to other elders, like Phillip Spooner. I am so glad he spoke up.

October 22nd, 2009 | LINK

My heart was touched by Mr. Spooner’s testimony. Hearing such words of wisdom and compassion from a true hero . . . inspires me to be proud and strong as an American and a gay man.

October 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Great example of applying an original principle past the original practice. In principal, WWII was about human equality. In practice, the boys on Omaha Beach freed the Jews and Jehovah’s Witnesses but left the gays and transgender folk to remain imprisoned. Good that we are finally practicing what we’re preaching.

October 23rd, 2009 | LINK

I posted Philip on my FB page and a few of my more conservative family and friends were simply in awe. This fine man, Philip, was able to move some people off of the fence.

I am sending this to as many folk as I can in Washington.

Chris McCoy
October 23rd, 2009 | LINK

rusty said:

I posted Philip on my FB page and a few of my more conservative family and friends were simply in awe. This fine man, Philip, was able to move some people off of the fence.

Likewise with me. I think this single video may have more power to change hearts and minds than any PR video from CA, WA, or ME that I have seen yet.

This one and the Irish video of the guy going around to ask everyone in the country for the right to marry.

Powerful stuff.

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