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Vietnam War veteran comes out as gay in his obituary, reveals he will be buried next to "the love of my life"

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An Army veteran, firefighter and New York radio station founder says he'll "forever Rest in Peace" after revealing a lifelong "secret." In a message included in Col. Edward Thomas Ryan's obituary, he said, "I was Gay all my life." 

The obituary states that Ryan, who lived in Albany, New York, was a retired fireman, the owner and founder of radio station WHRL-FM, and a highly decorated veteran of the U.S. military. Along with receiving the National Defense Service Medal, the obituary says that he received a Defense of Liberty Medal for his assistance in the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, a Conspicuous Service Medal for "keeping with the highest traditions of the Military Service," and a Commanders Citation for "Service Above and Beyond the Call." 

Ryan, who had a business degree, was also a member of the Vietnam Veterans of America and served on the Vietnam Veterans/Agent Orange Committee for the American Legion. 

According to the Albany Times Union, Ryan was 85 when he died on June 1. His family told the Times Union that he served in Vietnam while he was in the Army, but they weren't sure of his years or ranks. 

At the bottom of his service and funeral details, Ryan provided his own message, saying, "I must tell you one more thing." 

"I was Gay all my life: thru grade school, thru High School, thru College, thru Life." 

He also revealed that he had been in a long-term "loving and caring relationship" with another man named Paul Cavagnaro. That relationship ended in a heartbreaking situation – but after death, Ryan said they will be reunited. 

"He was the love of my life. We had 25 great years together," Ryan wrote. "Paul died in 1994 from a medical Procedure gone wrong. I'll be buried next to Paul." 

After years of keeping his sexual identity hidden, Ryan apologized. 

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

While Ryan didn't publicly come out before his death, his niece Linda Sargent told the Times Union that many in the family knew, but "it just wasn't something we talked about." 

"I knew probably 40 years. I knew [Cavagnaro] was his partner," Cathy Stammel told the Times Union. "They were a loving couple. I admired that," they said. "But I promised him I wouldn't say anything, and I kept that promise. It was up to him to talk about it when he was ready." 

Ryan's obituary has received wide support online, with people commenting on his digitized obituary, saying, "you were loved." 

"As a brother in arms, I salute you. As a brother in spirit, I embrace you. As a brother of the Holy Spirit, I kneel and pray for your eternal solace," one person commented. "To have found true love is priceless." 

Another commented an apology, saying they are "sorry that we as a country failed to make him feel safe enough to live his life fully and publicly." 

"May he rest in peace and Pride with Paul, and may his memory be a comfort to his family and a lesson to us all," they said. 

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