Throughout military history, long before the “LGBTQ+” was even a thing, members of the community were either banned from joining the service or hidden away. Soldiers, especially men, were painted as tough, brave, and everything masculine, and there was no room for anything that was not deemed “honorable.” Regardless, there were LGTBQ soldiers who braved the wars and went to protect their nations even when they were hidden, dismissed, and just plainly discriminated against. Most of them were either forced to hide their true identities or at least not talk about it with policies like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Here are some of them:

Oliver Sipple

Oliver “Billy” Sipple was from Detroit, Michigan, and grew up part of a large devout Baptist family. Billy knew that he was gay at an early age, but knowing that it would upset his religious parents, he chose to hide his sexual identity from them. He eventually dropped out of high school and instead joined the US Marines, where he was deployed in Vietnam. There, he was wounded not only once but twice, with one of them in the head.

At that time, the US military had not passed its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy yet that allowed gays to enlist as long as they kept their identity a secret. Regardless, Sipple still chose to keep his identity hidden.

Oliver Sipple in his apartment. (Associated Press/AP Images via

Perhaps one of the interesting parts of his career was when on September 22, 1975, the US veteran was walking through Union Square in San Francisco when he noticed a big crowd that formed at the St. Francis Hotel. He found out that President Gerald Ford was causing the build-up, as he was there for a conference. The President emerged, and Sipple immediately noticed a dark-haired woman raising her .38 caliber pistol and was aiming for the president. In a heartbeat, he lunged forward, knocked the gun out of the assassin’s hand, and saved Ford’s life.