T ransgender A merican
V eterans A ssociation

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines an epiphany as (1) the sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something (2) an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking (3) an illuminating discovery.

On May 1, 2004, while visiting the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Wall, I had an EPIPHANY!

As I walked along the reflective pool, I grew prouder and prouder of what I had done for my country between 1974 and 1986.  about my role in preserving the freedoms we hold so dear.  Until that day, I never really gave it much thought.  My memories of my military service are twinged with the bitterness of guilt and shame, marital strife, loneliness and fear.  the fear that my terrible secret would be found out.  I was a good airman, a team leader and an excellent electronics technician.  But I carried the burden of a damning secret, I was Transgendered.  But the worst part of all was that I blamed myself for being this way.

But on that spring day, something happened.  For the first time in my life, I understood that the suffering I had endured for the last thirty years.  The suffering I have brought into the lives of my loved ones.  The suffering of trying and failing to be a good father and husband.  The alcoholism, the drug abuse, the depression and the traumatic stress.  ALL of this pain and suffering. DID NOT HAVE TO HAPPEN!!!!

The sad fact was that a medically recognized treatment to ease my suffering was available, but that treatment had been withheld!  For all these years my own government had seen and known about what troubled me yet I was denied access to relief for my pain.  My own government had been treating me like a Prisoner of War!

But as I gazed at the Wall of faceless names, so many thousands that never returned, so many, many more that survived but still haven't made it all the way back home yet.  So many still waiting to hear the words `Welcome Home'.  As I gazed at the Wall of faceless names, I felt that big, black band-aid across America's Heart bind something inside ME.

Even though I had not served in Viet Nam, I heard those words `Welcome Home' in my soul that day, and I felt truly honored for who I was and what I'd done for my country.

And I wasn't ashamed any more.

Synthea Freeman
Former TSgt, USAF
Ground Radio Communications Technician/Supervisor

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