Military veteran comes out as gay in viral obituary: 'I was afraid'

A US Marine holds the folded US flag (Photo credit: Marty Melville/AFP/GettyImages)

A U.S. military veteran who died at 85 years old came out as gay in his obituary, apologizing to the world for "not having the courage" to come out sooner. 

Col. Edward Thomas Ryan, of Rensselaer, New York, was a decorated military veteran who served with the 10th Brigade in New York City. He was a retired firefighter, an owner and founder of an Albany radio station, and a chef at his local American Legion Post. 

But Ryan, who died June 1, waited until his death to share one aspect of his life: 

"I must tell you one more thing. I was Gay all my life: thru grade school, thru High School, thru College, thru Life," Ryan said, according to his online obituary. "I was in a loving and caring relationship with Paul Cavagnaro of North Greenbush. He was the love of my life. We had 25 great years together. Paul died in 1994 from a medical Procedure gone wrong. I'll be buried next to Paul. 

"I'm sorry for not having the courage to come out as Gay," he continued. "I was afraid of being ostracized: by Family, Friends, and Co-Workers. Seeing how people like me were treated, I just could not do it. Now that my secret is known, I'll forever Rest in Peace."

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Ryan’s niece, Linda Sargent, told Good Morning America that her uncle was especially nervous about sharing his sexual orientation because of his military background. Until 2010, service members could be barred from the military for being openly gay. Sargent said her family never met Ryan’s longtime partner who died in 1994, but she believes Ryan’s siblings may have known he was gay. 

"He wanted to go home. He wanted to be with him, that I do know," Sargent said. "He never had another partner after that. He was the love of his life."