by Jessica Carreras
Jack Miller is a 63-year-old retired U.S. Army and Navy Veteran. He’s also an openly gay father and grandfather – and a passionate volunteer at the Affirmations LGBT community center in Ferndale.
1) What do you do as a volunteer for Affirmations?
I started out strictly as a “facilities guy” – cleaning anything and everything (including the toilets) and fixing whatever needed fixing. Somewhere along the line I added the reception desk and just kept on doing whatever needed to be done in order for Affirmations to continue its work in the GLBT community.
2) Why do you choose to volunteer?
I really believe that each of us needs, in some way, to give of ourselves. I retired some time ago and began searching for some way to share my abilities that would make a difference. It wasn’t difficult to pick Affirmations, and I am so thankful that I made that phone call. The tasks I accomplish may not be huge in the overall scheme of things but they have made a huge difference in my life. I have met and worked with some of the most wonderful people on this earth. I feel I have a purpose outside of my biological family.
3) As a U.S. veteran, what are your thoughts on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”?
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” isn’t worth a damn. I know beyond a doubt that I was not the only gay guy in the military, and I can only imagine the talent our country is wasting due to the current policy. It wasn’t any better “back in the day.” In 1965 I literally had to lie to join the military, lie to get my security clearance and live in fear of discovery. It certainly didn’t improve under DADT either.
4) You were in the military for quite a long time. What was your experience serving as a gay man?
I was able to do my job and do it very well for over 24 years, as many awards and commendations can testify – but I couldn’t share my “real” life with my fellow sailors and soldiers. More than once I was sure someone was about to blow my cover (no pun intended) and I would have lost everything: insurance, pension, and whatever self-respect I had managed to gather. My family will tell you there was a huge change in my attitude and my life once I retired. I know I am a much happier person now that I can be out and be active in the gay community.
5) Why do you think it is important for LGBT people to be involved with local gay causes and organizations?
GLBT folks must be involved at some level. Our position in society will never improve if we don’t get out there and get the word out – we are gay, we are not contagious, we are your neighbors and we are not going away. The difference in society’s attitude has come a long, long way since I figured out I was gay back in the early 60s but there is still room for improvement. That improvement can only come from within. If we don’t get our message out, no one else is going to do it for us.
Want to do what Jack does? Learn more or sign up for volunteer training by going to www.goaffirmations.org.