In September 1975, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Leonard Matlovich was featured on the cover of Time magazine under the headline, “I Am a Homosexual.”

It was the first time an openly gay man appeared on the cover of a national news magazine.

In March of that year, Matlovich—who served three tours in Vietnam and received both a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart—delivered a letter to his commanding officer stating that he was gay and that he intended to continue his military career. Read it here.

Leonard Matlovitch was challenging the military ban on gay service members.

Soon after the issue of Time hit newsstands, Matlovich was discharged from the Air Force for his admission. For the next five years, the decorated veteran fought his dismissal in Federal court and was eventually reinstated. While he never returned to active duty, he did receive a monetary settlement from the military that included back pay.

Tech. Sgt. Leonard Matlovich died on June 22, 1988.

Jeff Dupre (above left) knew Leonard Matlovich in the 1970s. He came to StoryCorps with his husband, David Phillips, to record Jeff’s memories of the man who started the legal battle for military acceptance of LGBTQ people.

Originally aired October 30, 2015, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Grave photo courtesy of
Letter courtesy of Leonard Matlovich Papers, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Historical Society.