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In the wake of disappointment regarding the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell the LGBT community must remember that there indeed are gay heroes that served our country proudly, and bravely. They soldiered on despite the crude, professed belief that gay soldiers would be more interested in sex with their comrades than taking up arms.

One such gay hero is Ross O. McClure who served from 1942 to 1945, in what was then known as the Army Air Division, renamed the Air Force after WWII. McClure, who is now nearly 90 years-of-age is still a sociable fellow who refuses to think of himself as an older person when SFGN sat down with him over cocktails recently. His story of service against the Axis Powers will not conjure up images of soldiers at ease, being entertained by the likes of Bob Hope.

The plane, of which he was navigator, a B17 was shot down on May 12, 1944 and he was a POW until April of 1945.

“I landed in the mountains of Czechoslovakia. The winds picked me up and I was ‘knocked out.’ I came to and heard the Germans screaming and shooting their guns off. I just laid there, the parachute was hung up in the trees so the enemy wouldn’t miss me,” said McClure. His neck and back were in tremendous pain, which still bothers him to this day.

Soon enough, Nazi soldiers did indeed find McClure. They ran him barefoot through the snow, to what he assumes to have been an inn. There, they interrogated him, threatened to shoot him, but he knew – as per the Geneva Convention – he only had to give his name, rank, and serial number.

“The next day a German guard took me on a train to Frankfurt,” said McClure. “There I was put into a room and again I have no idea how many nights and days I was there. There were no windows and only one light bulb. Food was slid under the door and there was a “pot” in the corner. Finally, they came and got me and took me to an interrogator.”

The interrogator once again tried to get McClure “to talk,” but he only replied with name, rank, and serial number. The interrogator however already knew the names of his family, where his brother was stationed in the South Pacific, what schools he attended and that he was enrolled at the University of Ohio as an art student prior to enlisting in the military.

The next year, after grueling marches, he was kept in a POW camp. His suffering was intense – but surely similar to what many veterans endured. The food was so bad he traded his solid gold class ring for a can of condensed milk. By the time Patton’s army came to liberate the camp the six-foot-tall McClure was reduced to 128 lbs, down nearly 60 lbs.

“When the Americans came to liberate us they put us on a first-class train to a hospital in France,” said McClure. “At the hospital they told us we had to be on a low-fat diet, because they had lost a couple of our boys, their bodies could not digest food.”

It goes without saying that McClure feels the tumultuous situation surrounding Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is, in one word, “Ridiculous.”

Six weeks later, he was put back on a ship to New York, where only in the past decade has he been able to talk about his harrowing experiences.

“I do not know why I am struggling with this after so many years,” said McClure. “It has been on my mind lately, daytime and nighttime. My parents went to their graves not knowing what my experience as a POW was. They tell me I will feel better once I get this out.”

When McClure’s returned to Ohio he earned a degree from the University of Ohio, and soon after coupled his initial training as an art student with a business degree and became a buyer for a large department store. He spent a great deal of time abroad while Western European countries were still rebuilding and restoring their bombed out facades.

His time in POW camps did not deter McClure’s sense of adventure and love for travel. With a smile the total opposite of the somber expression he wore he recalled those times in Paris, soon after the fall of the Third Reich. He said a room at the famed Ritz Hotel was a mere $5.00 per night.

It should come as no surprise that McClure’s friends consider him to be a hero. However, a friend of his present during the interview said that, “He never thinks of himself as a hero.”

The United States however does think of him as a hero, and awarded him four flying medals and the nation’s highest honor, a Purple Heart.