Remembering Orlando

the_just_wanted_to_danceThis morning while browsing my Facebook feed I happened to stumble across a post about Sia’s newest video “The Greatest” being released as a tribute to the victims of the Orlando Massacre this past June. After watching the video I was moved to share my thoughts with y’all. Yes this was a tragedy that will forever scare our country and the community I call my family. The LGBT Community has been my adopted family since my coming out, and when I woke-up that Sunday morning to hear about the shooting, my world was turned completely upside down. That was supposed to be a morning of celebration, of triumph, since we as a community had overcome may adversities in the past few years, and were a more unified and stronger community. That was the morning of the LA LGBT Pride Parade, and our celebration was put on hold so to speak to mourn the losses of those precious souls who were taken from us just a few hours before. I along with thousands of others had to make a decision, to stay home in fear that we too could be attacked or continue with the celebration, in honor of all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice so we could celebrate pride. As the history books will read, we as a community came together and stood strong, unified, saying we will not back down out of fear, or give in to terrorist threats. We fought long and hard for the rights we have and will celebrate our PRIDE in memory of those we have lost.

I will never forget that day, especially when I could have been a victim that morning of 12 June 2016, as the LA Pride Parade was threatened by a disturbed man in Santa Monica. Thanks to the efforts of the local authorities the terrorist was arrested and the attack prevented. Despite recommendations from the Sheriff’s Dept and local officials, we didn’t cancel the parade, we stepped up our guard and continued as planned. Many of us scared, many of us hurt, and many of us mad. I can say I was truly mad that this type of tragedy can still happen in today’s society, a society where we claim to be tolerant of one another. A society where two men can live their life in peace and not fear another threatening to harm or kill them for living the life the choose.

Recently, the people of Southern Florida were under threat once again by another disturbed man who was to face trial this afternoon however was postponed due to health problems. This man had been making threats on Social Media that he was going to carry out an attack on LGBT men & women over the Labor Day Weekend. A week after the posts the FBI was able to locate and arrest the man before he could carry out any of his threats and Facebook was able to remove the posts and close the man’s accounts.

Over the past few months since the tragedy in Orlando there had been other similar attacks on various groups in Florida, Mexico and other locations killing at least 125 Americans and injuring 269 by gun-violence. Nearly 300 victims of gun-violence in America, I can’t believe this. In a country where we are supposed to be safe of violence such as this, however we have the highest rates of gun-violence than any other country in the world. Gun Violence Archive (GVA) reports that in 2016, to-date, there has been 38,254 incidents of gun-violence, 9,820 deaths, 451 Child related incidents (0-11), 2,117 teenager related incidents (12-17), and 263 mass shootings. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my children or relatives to live in a society that will allow this to happen, and not do anything to protect us, to protect our children. I urge who ever reads this to reflect of these numbers, to remember the tragedies of this past year, and previous years and hold our politicians accountable. This is an election year after all, and many of our leaders are bidding for election and re-election. Demand that we as a society prevent our children from growing up in a world where they can be killed for loving someone, to be killed for enjoying a night our with friends, to be killed walking down the street. Write letters, make phone calls, don’t let the conversation stop, and always remember those who we have lost.

“Spread Love, Not Hate”

Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old
Amanda Alvear, 25 years old
Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old
Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old
Juan Chavez Martinez, 25 years old
Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old
Cory James Connell, 21 years old
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old
Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old
Frank Hernandez, 27 years old
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old
Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25 years old
Christopher “Drew” Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old
KJ Morris, 37 years old
Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years old
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old
Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 years old
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old
Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old
Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old
Luis Daniel Lestat Wilson-Leon, 37 years old
Jerald “Jerry” Arthur Wright, 31 years old

Below are the videos of tribute to those precious 49 that i found online, there are many more, but i share these with you here to help you remember…

Sia – The Greatest

“Hands” – A Song for Orlando

Stop the Hate: 49 Celebrities Honor 49 Victims of Orlando Tragedy in Ryan Murphy-Produced Tribute

Christina Aguilera – Change (Lyric Video)

Jennifer Lopez, Lin-Manuel Miranda – Love Make the World Go Round (Lyric Video)

“Forty-Nine Times” – Brandon Parsons

“PULSE” by Eli Lieb and Brandon Skeie

Rick Haze – One Pulse ft. Julian Velez

“Broadway for Orlando”: The Exclusive Music Video

Melissa Etheridge – Pulse

Adam Lambert – Outlaws of Love

Janet Jackson – Shoulda Known Better

Elton John’s Tribute to Orlando

Lady Gaga honors Orlando victims at Los Angeles vigil | LA LGBT Center

I am honored to be in the audience for this appearance by Lady Gaga.


Get back to work, Congress

I thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts on recent events. Before I go into why I sat down to put these words to paper, I feel I have to share a little on who I am. My name is Apolonio E. Muñoz III, am a Service–Connected Disabled Veteran, full-time unemployed student who happens to also serve on several organizational boards. Currently I am the Acting Chair of the San Gabriel Valley Veterans Employment Committee, Public Relations
Officer of the Southern California Veterans Employment Committee, President of the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of American Veterans for Equal Rights, National Secretary of the American Veterans for Equal Rights, the Chair of the Committee of LGBT Veterans for the Veterans Caucus of the California Democratic Party, and a Fully Professed Member of the Los Angeles Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. As you can see, I am pretty well connected in the community as an openly gay Veteran living in Los Angeles County.

I write these words not as a Board Member of any of the above organizations, I take off all the many hats that I wear on any given day and I write the following words as me, Apolonio the Service-Connected Disabled Veteran. I originally wrote these words on board the LA Metro this evening as I travelled from Pasadena, CA to Burbank, CA, after attending class at the University of Phoenix in Old Pasadena. With the news over the past few days of the government shut down gaining much media and community attention, I am losing all respect for the country’s leadership. Let me explain why I feel this way. In the summer of 2001, I decided in order to leave my small town in South Texas and to make something of myself; I would join the US Army. In October of that year I was sworn in and started basic training in Ft Jackson, SC. It was then that I learned what it meant to serve one’s own country and the sacrifices of the men and women who came before me and died in the name of freedom. It was then that I also sworn an allegiance to the US Constitution and the country’s leaders. I swear an oath to honor and defend that document from all enemies foreign and domestic, and to this very day still take that oath to heart.

As I sit here on the LA Metro, I am reflecting on the events of the day. I find myself dumbfounded to believe that the leaders I have entrusted with safeguarding my freedoms as well as that of the others on this very train have let the Federal Government come almost to a screeching stop. I say almost cause there are some select members of the Government that still have their jobs, however many have been furloughed effective Midnight of 1 October 2013. Yes, the media has been the voice of impending doom over the past few days and weeks leading up to today’s events however myself and many other American have been ignorant to think that the US Congress, our own dully elected politicians would let this happen. I find myself extremely disappointed that grown men and women who are charged with making the hard decisions on the various aspects that effect our everyday lives would fight and act like spoiled children, resulting in thousands of Americans furloughed and without a way of providing for their selves and families, all the while knowing that their own paychecks would not be affected. I have many friends and family members that have been directly affected by recent furloughs that were periodic in the sense that each had to give up only a few select days a month, however now they are being furloughed indefinitely. In theory these individuals have a job technically, however they are not allowed to report to work and earn a paycheck until the US Congress comes to an agreement on the National Budget. I know I am not alone in thinking that Congress itself should not be paid until it passes the budget, it would only be fair.

As a Disabled Veteran, I currently rely on government assistance in the form of VA Disability and VA Education payments to pay my living expenses. These payments are not very much and I don’t live an extravagant life,
however it is enough to survive from day to day. Soon, very soon this government shutdown will affect even me, as my VA benefits can be suspended if Congress doesn’t pass its budget in a timely manner. I am a little relieved to know that at the moment my VA healthcare would not be affected as the VA passes that budget a year in advance.

Just knowing that currently thousands of Americans are wondering how they are going to provide for their families, some are even thinking about looking for alternative employment options as Congress doesn’t seem to be making any headway on finding a solution to this current government fiscal debacle. If things continue thousands and possibly millions will also be in the same situation, including myself and all my fellow Veterans. It doesn’t stop there Federal student programs will eventually be suspended as well. Like I mentioned in the opening, I am a full time student and utilize Student Loans and Grants to cover what expenses the VA doesn’t cover. Word that those programs will eventually be suspended also gives me great concern, as my entire income will cease to exist. Did the US Congress consult the very citizens they represent before they made the decision that created this problem? If they did I must have missed that call, text, email or letter. They didn’t worry about the regular citizen that is forced to live on government assistance. It is estimated that in LA County alone there is 24% of its population living below poverty line. In the most populated county in the country with nearly 10 million residents and having some of the Country’s most wealthy as residents this is a travesty that so many will soon be affected by Congress not passing the budget. Many of these residents will soon be adding to the already high numbers of homeless that call LA County home.

Again, I find myself greatly disappointed and like I wrote earlier I have lost all respect for our Nation’s leaders, to allow something this severe happen on their watch. The news states that similar government shutdown have occurred in the past, and can last a few short days or as long as weeks. As things unfold, both parties are blaming each other and not wanting to cooperate and come to a mutual agreement. If this would be anyone else that
missed a highly important deadline, they would be fired immediately. 
If I had the chance to personally address Congress on this very issue, I would choose to share some words that some would think as harsh. Those that have worked with me in the past would understand and not be surprised to read/hear them as I don’t like to play games, especially when it comes to getting things done and has something to do with my fellow Veterans. I would tell Congress, “Do your jobs or step down.” I would go on the calmly explain by saying, “You were elected to your current positions and all the American public ever sees is you and your colleagues acting like spoiled children. I understand that you base this non cooperation of both sides in regards to the Affordable Care Act. If you lost the vote that created the law, and the many votes that would repeal the law after it was signed by the President, and the US Supreme Court didn’t find the law to be unconstitutional, then maybe you need to give up and move on to more important policies that deserve your attention. So grow up and get back to work.” Again I would state to them, “Do your jobs or step down. If you refuse to meet your deadlines and get along with your colleagues then maybe you don’t deserve to be in the position you are in. I’m sure there are many other capable adults that will do what is needed to make the difficult decisions and act in the best interest of the citizens of this country, all citizens not just the ones that finance the election campaigns, such leaders that would understand how the actions/decisions that are made in Congress affect the everyday lives of all Americans.”

For a while I have tried my best to stay out of the political arena, since my views can be seen as radical, however after seeing these men and women can’t do the job of the US Congress maybe we need modern day politicians that have lived the life of the everyday American. Someone that what it is like to live one pay check at a time. Someone who rents a small residence because that is all they can afford. Someone that has to use public transportation to get to and from work and other appointments. Someone that has had to choose between buying food and paying your bills. Come to think of it, I might have to step up to the plate and take a more active role in doing something to help my fellow Americans, you might just see my name on a ballot someday. All I know is right now we need leaders in DC that will get the job done and not blame the other side for them not making a competent decision.

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