‘I was lost before we met’: Gay WWII veteran, 100, reveals how he and a 72-year-old Vietnam vet finally found acceptance and married at a military retirement home
That’s certainly true for married military veterans John Banvard, 100, and Gerard ‘Jerry’ Nadeau, 72, who are living their retirement together, as openly gay men, in a military home in Chula Vista, California.
Speaking to NPR, Vietnam vet Jerry and WWII vet John shared how they found love with each other later in life, and how they have come to be accepted after nearly 25 years together.
In a tender exchange, Jerry asks John: ‘What would it have been like if you didn’t meet me?’
‘I would have continued being lonely,’ John says. ‘I’d been absolutely lost.’
Jerry said when he and John moved to the veterans home in 2010, people wondered what exactly their relationship was.
‘Well, when we got married, they knew what our relationship was,’ he added with a laugh.
John was expecting to be ‘ridiculed’ when he married Jerry in 2013, but, instead, the residents of the home were welcoming to their relationship.
‘We’d gotten married at the veterans home, and we said, ‘If you came to see the bride, you’re out of luck,’ said Jerry.
They had an ‘informal’ ceremony where they served hot dogs, or as John called it: ‘hardly wedding food.’
John’s wife of more than 35 years had died almost 10 years before he met Jerry during a trip to California.
Within months of meeting, John sold his house in Texas and moved in with Jerry.
Although the two vets seemed very different at first sight – John is a fan of art and theater while Jerry likes the outdoors – they became inseparable and have been together ever since.
‘You’ve made my life complete,’ Jerry tells John.
‘I could say the same to you,’ John replies.
‘I think we’re probably as happy together as any two people you’re likely to meet.’