I’m From Spring, TX.

by matt r.

I was in Sadr City looking for something to cover up the body of a fallen Soldier.  He had died in a bombing and I could see his blood staining the ground below the stretcher he lay on.

As I searched, my mind brought me back to a few weeks prior when my patrol had come under sniper fire.  We were pinned down as the sniper’s bullets struck around us.  From the opposite side of the road, several insurgents opened fire on us with AK-47’s.  I yelled at my Soldiers to return fire and stepped out of my cover to shoot back.  We drove them away with a hail of bullets and somehow, we all managed to make it out without a scratch.

I found a blanket and walked over to the Soldier.  Most of the blood drained from his body, his skin had turned almost transparent.  Somehow, though, his face looked peaceful.  As I laid the blanket over him, I wondered if he was happy with the life he had chosen to live.

I received an Army Commendation Medal with Valor and a Bronze Star Medal for what I did in Iraq. Externally, I was brave.  A hero.  Internally, I was a coward.  Hidden in the closet.


  1. A coward, you’re not. If everyone were as brave as you, we wouldn’t have a policy forcing you to choose between being a hero and being honest to those around you. I hope soon you won’t have to choose between the two. The world is a better place because it has people like you in it, so thanks for all that you’ve done for us.

  2. Thank you for your service.

    Your bravery, then and now, is inspiring.

  3. One of my good friends is a lesbian in the Navy. If the higher-ups had any clue what this hiding and doubt and artificially-imposed-self-loathing does to their servicemembers, they would be clamoring for its repeal.

  4. Matt,

    You are the bravest of the brave. Your time out of the closet will come. We all have to choose the time that is right for us and our situations. You will know in your heart and your head when that time is right. Thank you for your service and take of yourself.

  5. Matt,

    It makes me sick that our government has not allowed you and many others to be proud of their service while being proud of who they are.

    I hope hope hope this is going to change with Obama in the White House.

    Nate, I think you should send a printout of this story to our President. He personally reads ten letters a week from real people in our country. He needs to read this one.

    Thank you, Matt, for your service to our country. And for sharing this story with us.


  6. You’re not in that closet because you’re a coward. You’re in there because you put the needs of others before your own and this was the only way you could do that. That takes a very special kind of courage and dedication.

  7. I agree with the other posters. You are brave. You enable people like me to be out and proud.

  8. You are a hero, not a coward We don’t deserve you.

  9. Matt, I can’t agree more with what everybody has already said. Considering the current stance on gays in the military, I am reminded of some words by Brian Kinney in Queer as Folk: “It’s not lying if they make you lie. If the only truth they can accept is their own.” You are INDEED brave.

  10. I spent 25 years in the reserves and a lifetime in the closet. Your willingness to put your life on the line daily for a country that does not want to acknowledge you as a gay man is more than bravery; it is noble in its scope. The day will eventually come that you will feel comfortable in being out and still be able to serve honorably as a gay serviceman. It is not you who is the coward, but our Congressmen and Congresswomen who allow a vocal, but powerful minority to cow them into not allowing us to serve free. Our voice is being heard and the changes will come. In the meantime, I salute you in your bravery under fire and as a gay, but retired officer. I am now out and I post my military pictures in my online profile because I am now free to be out and proud of what I was able to do while still in the closet.

  11. You are modest and courageous.

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  13. You are a hero. Our society is working on it. DADT is gone. Marriage is next. We won’t stop until it’s equal for all.

    G L Costa

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  15. Matt R – you’re not a coward, you’re a hero. Take it from me – I would know.

    Where I come from, we talk about honor and integrity. These are not just words – they are the rules by which we live our lives, whether we stand on the wall in Guantanamo, are slapping sand at a FOB, or whether we guard a room on a carrier. Honor, courage, commitment – these are the core values of a United States Marine.

    For Marines, honor means being held to the highest standards, ethically and morally. Respect for others is essential. Marines are expected to act responsibly, and in a mature and dependable manner.

    You may be a soldier and not a Marine, but your honor is less, and your head should be held no higher. You distinguished yourself as an outstanding soldier worthy of the recognition of your peers and your country.

    Courage is not the absence of fear. It is the ability to face fear and overcome it. It is the mental, moral and physical strength ingrained in every Marine. It steadies them, as it steadies you, in times of stress, carries them through every challenge and aids them in facing new and unknown confrontations.

    You showed truly extra-ordinary courage to risk your life to save others. You showed courage in signing that dotted line the first day, before you hit your recruit depot, for being willing to take that duty upon yourself. You showed TRULY amazing courage for doing what you thought was right, NO MATTER THE COST to yourself or to others.

    Commitment is the spirit of determination and dedication found in every Marine. It is what compels them to serve our country and the Marine Corps. Every aspect of life in the Marine Corps shows commitment, from the high standard of excellence to vigilance in training.

    You made a decision. You held to that decision, even at the potential cost of your own life. You held to that decision – that commitment to serve – even though you knew that you had to tear yourself to shreds to do it.

    You did your duty with courage, honor, and commitment. You gave of yourself so that others could live.

    If I could, I would hand you the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor myself to make you one of our own. There is no greater compliment from a Marine than to be told you are worthy of being one of us.

    Semper Fidelis, soldier, I salute you.

  16. *eep!

    That should read:

    You may be a soldier and not a Marine, but your honor is NO less, and your head should be held no higher. You distinguished yourself as an outstanding soldier worthy of the recognition of your peers and your country.

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