Leonard Matlovich

Congressional Cemetery1988

Historic Congressional Cemetery

Historic Congressional Cemetery
Washington, DC, United States

LEONARD MATLOVICH (1943–1988) As an Air Force veteran of the Vietnam War, Matlovich was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for killing two soldiers during a Viet Cong attack on his sentry post. In 1975, Matlovich decided to test the military ban on gays, and came out in a letter to his commanding officer at Langley Air Force Base. After 12 years of exemplary duty, Matlovich was discharged.He fought the discharge, in the courts, in the press, and in the hearts and minds of Americans who found his treatment unfair. After he settled his case with the Air Force, Matlovich continued to champion gay rights. In 1988, as he was dying from AIDS, Matlovich decided he did not want to be buried among the anonymous, identical veteran’s stones in Arlington National Cemetery. Instead, he designed this grave for himself, incorporating the same reflective black granite as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. The pink triangles are the mark that Nazis forced gays to wear in concentration camps. And his epitaph, “When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one” has become a rallying point for gay veterans everywhere.


  • Title: Leonard Matlovich
  • Creator: Congressional Cemetery
  • Date Created: 1988
  • Location Created: Washington, DC

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more

Flash this QR Code to get the app
Google apps