Serving with pride

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Michael Battles
  • 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Every year around this time I'm reminded why I'm proud to be who I am as a person, but this June I'm especially proud to say that I'm an American and work in a military that supports openly gay service members.

For nearly two decades, service members served under Don't Ask, Don't Tell, which banned gay service members from openly serving in the U.S. military. These Americans who worked under DADT helped pave the way by denying who they were so that one day young Airmen such as myself could come to work each day and truly be who they are.

Even though I only served in the military for a short period under DADT, I still remember the feeling of "is today going to be the day someone finally says something about my sexual orientation?" Now almost nine months into the repeal, myself and other gay service members are seeing the positive changes throughout the military. Recently, the Defense Department recognized June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month, which celebrates everything LBGT members have given to the Armed Forces.

In the early stages of the repeal, I never believed that I would see the day that I would be celebrated for being a gay service member, but now I see how far an organization can grow, evolve and adapt to the everyday changes thrown our way no matter how big or small. The fact that our government would listen to the voices of the people to create a positive change is why I'm proud to say I'm an American and U.S. service member.

In a video message, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta emphasized the military's diversity. "The successful repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' proved to the nation that, just like the country we defend, we share different backgrounds, different values and different beliefs," he said. "But together we form the greatest military force in the world."

During DADT, more than 13,500 service member were separated under the law. Since the repeal service members who were discharged under DADT have been given the opportunity to re-enlist. These service members show the true heart of America, that their service to their country is more important than the discharge they were separated by.