A Conversation with Veteran Barbara Randolph-Couture, wife of former Coro alto section leader and board member, Amy Randolph-Couture (in conjunction with Coro Allegro's recent concert We Will Not Be Erased: A Veterans Day Concert Honoring the Service of All).
—Barbara and Amy Randolph-Couture
I was born on a Air Force base and lived there until I was 16 years old. I was part of a military family. My dad served 28 years. It was in the blood.
In the early 70s, I signed up for the Army. After training I went into the Army Security Agency and ended up with a security clearance higher than my father’s.
I was sent to school after school, to learn more about my craft. While I was still in training, I was approached and told, “We need you to come down to CID,” which is the Criminal Investigation Division.
They put me in a room with two men, who started questioning me one after the other. One of them asked: “Are you a homosexual?” I answered: “Well, I guess I am” and from that point they started discharge proceedings against me.
I was sent to a Court-Martial. They took away my Army Security Agency status. There was another woman that I was in a relationship with, and we were discharged together.
I was given a “General Discharge, Under Honorable Conditions,” which is not the same as getting an “Honorable Discharge” with the big certificate you can put on your wall.
We still have the DD 214 Form, the copy of my discharge. It mentions I was discharged for “misconduct, homosexual acts, moral or professional dereliction.”
My lawyers and I worked for years to get me an Honorable Discharge. Leonard Matlovich of the Air Force was also discharged for being gay around the same time. His case became much more famous. He was asked to speak at Pride marches and was on the cover of Time. But my picture was in Newsweek.
Amy saw it there before we met. She thought: "How could a lesbian ever want to be in the military?” She thought every gay person shared her politics. We eventually met on a softball field through an ex of mine, and there I was. She said, “I know your name.”
In 1981, I finally got the letter. I ran up to Amy, flapping the letter, and said, “Amy, Amy, I got my Honorable Discharge!" It was Pride, and so we went together to watch the Parade.
I was glad to get the letter, because it hurt me to not to have an Honorable Discharge when I had not done anything wrong. I was always told to tell the truth. And I did. I answered their questions, not knowing what they were going to do to me.
I was raised to believe in honor and bravery and equality. All my life. That is part of why I joined the military. I was taught that we are exactly the same. It made no sense to me. I swore to protect and defend the Constitution but I was told I was not honorable enough.
I finally got my Honorable Discharge. But I never got my big certificate to hang on the wall.
Coro Allegro is proud to sing for you, Barbara!