Leonard Matlovich (7/6/43 – 6/22/88) was decorated for his services during the Vietnam War with the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. During the 1970s, he was a household name throughout the US media. He fought, after his “coming out”, to continue in the United States Army.
This public struggle resulted in articles being written in newspapers such as The New York Times and an appearance on an NBC television show. Matlovich appeared on the cover of Time on September 8, 1975, making Matlovich an example to many gay service soldiers in the US Army.
Matlovich was born in Savannah, Georgia. His father was a soldier in the Air Force, so his childhood was spent at various air bases, mainly in the southern United States. Matlovich and his sister were raised Catholic. According to statements he would later make, at 20 he was a “white racist” and a “flag-waving patriot.” Matlovich entered the army and went to Vietnam. There he was seriously injured on a mission, stepping on a land mine in Da Nang. He returned to the United States and received two awards for his services, the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.
In subsequent years, Matlovich was stationed among other places in Florida, near Fort Walton Beach. There he first visited secret gay bars in Pensacola and became increasingly aware of his sexual orientation.
In 1975 he was stationed at Langley Air Force Base, where he decided to reveal his sexual orientation to his superiors, taking as an example the United States Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education of 1954 against racial segregation. Six months later he was fired. The army allowed him to return if he signed a paper that he promised never to have homosexual relations again. Matlovich took the army to court and won after several instances in 1980 an award of $160,000.
During the time of the trials, Matlovich became a Mormon and moved to Hampton, Virginia. Due to his public homosexuality, he was given excommunication on October 7, 1975 in Norfolk, Virginia, and again on January 17, 1979 by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, after he appeared on The Phil Donahue Show.
Source: Radio Power Strike with Latitud Gay