Buffalo resident one of the country’s first commissioned as a service member living with HIV

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Buffalo resident and 2014 U.S. Naval Academy graduate Kevin Deese was commissioned an ensign in the U.S. navy reserve during a Memorial Day ceremony at the Buffalo Naval Park Friday. While this is a big achievement for Deese, it is also a big moment in the U.S., as he is one of the country’s first service members living with HIV to be commissioned.

Kevin Deese will now serve as a supply corps officer, drilling out of the Navy reserve center in Buffalo.

To get to this point, he had to fight tooth and nail, paving the way for LGBTQ+ military members in the future.

A decade ago, Kevin Deese stayed seated while other classmates at the United States Naval Academy stood to take the oath of office.

While at school, he was diagnosed with HIV, which led to the Department of Defense rejecting him from the military as a result.

“As tough as that day had been and many more since then, the journey brought me here today, where I can raise my right hand in front of my family and village, in my home of Buffalo, to swear to protect and defend the constitution as an officer in the Navy,” Deese said.

In 2018, Deese filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Department of Defense.

“We overcame some hurdles initially with the government asking the court to throw out the case, fortunately that didn’t happen,” Peter Perkowski, a member of Deese’s legal team, said. “Once we started getting these wins from the court, everything went smoothly.”

Deese won the case, which contributed to the Department of Defense announcing policy changes in the wake of the groundbreaking spring 2022 court ruling, ordering the Defense Department to stop enforcing what are now called “irrational and discriminatory policies.”

This led to Deese and future cadets receiving the commissions they earned.

“For him to say, ‘That’s not good enough, I was born to serve, I have a calling that I need to fulfill.’ And he found a way to do it,” said retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Kevin Green.

“What Kevin demonstrated is a great deal of dedication and commitment,” National Guard First Lieutenant Nicholas Harrison added. “I think that’s exactly what you want in a Naval officer.”

Deese said that everything happens for a reason, and he is honored that he can be a significant part and milestone in Buffalo’s LGBTQ+ Civil Rights history.

“I wanted to fight for the chance to serve alongside my classmates and to repay the country,” he said. “The choice and the desire to make an impact wherever you can is really within all of us. I really do think that at the end of the day, we all crave a chance to make a positive impact.”

Deese has embraced Buffalo since he moved here in 2021 by living downtown, working at M&T Bank, even being nominated in the 2024 Artie Awards for outstanding lead actor in a musical for his performance as Jimmy in the musical “Reefer Madness” at Shea’s Smith Theatre.

Latest Local News

Buffalo resident makes history with Naval commission

One in critical condition after three shot in NF

Hochul holds social media roundtable with local students

Goldfish Swim School shares tips for Water Safety Month

Police find two dead in Depew home

Dillon Morello is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has been part of the News 4 team since September of 2023. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *