For the vast majority of US military history, LGBT service members had to serve quietly, hiding who they were and who they loved from their colleagues and superiors, or risk their careers and reputations. With the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and Supreme Court’s decision on nationwide marriage equality, all of that changed.
For the past few, short years, LGBT service members have been able to kiss their partners at homecomings. They’ve been able to have their ranks pinned by the loves of their lives. They’ve been able to go to balls and holiday parties and dining outs with their husbands and wives. They’ve been able to add their spouse in DEERS and walk through the Exchange holding hands. Quite simply, they’ve been able to live life on their terms.
Here’s what those moments have looked like since 2013:
Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Gabrielle Young hugs her girlfriend on the pier as Sailors and Marines board the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) before it departs Naval Station Mayport for a deployment in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in Europe and the Middle East. The Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group embarks the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and includes Iwo Jima, the amphibious transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21), the dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51), Fleet Surgical Team 8, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28, Tactical Air Control Squadron 22, components of Naval Beach Group 2 and the embarked staff of Amphibious Squadron 4. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Dary M. Patten/Released)
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Erwynn Umali-Behrens, right, a professional military education instructor with the 87th Force Support Squadron, and his partner, Will Umali-Behrens, attend the second annual Knights Out Dinner at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., March 23, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Stanley Maszczak/Released)
Airman 1st Class Celeste Smith, 354th Comptroller Squadron customer service technician, holds the Rainbow Flag for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month June 12, 2014, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Smith is an open bisexual and a member of the LGBT Pride Month committee. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashley Nicole Taylor/Released)
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ashely Jacobs, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 210th Aviation Regiment, 128th Aviation Brigade UH-60 Black Hawk mechanic instructor, left, and Sgt. 1st Class Rachel Underwood, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 222nd Aviation Regiment, 128th Aviation Brigade Advanced Individual Training platoon sergeant, married each other five years after the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Act was revoked. Both joined before the act was revoked, during which time many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered individuals struggled to keep a part of their lives a secret. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kimberly Nagle/Released)
“Pride is the celebration of our life and the freedom to embrace who we are. It is the celebration for those who have fought for our rights and on behalf of those who are not here to celebrate their meaningful life with us, whose lives were taken too soon from hate, and ignorance; from despair. It is the celebration of our beautiful son, born from two women in love and those blossoming into the person they were always meant to be.” – U.S. Army Warrant Officer 1 Ramona Silafau, left, 10th Army Air & Missile Defense Command G-1 Human Resources Technician with spouse, Jazmine Silafau and their son Jax.
Machinist’s Mate (Nuclear) 2nd Class Jerrel Revel proposes to his boyfriend upon the return of the Virginia-class fast attack submarine USS New Mexico (SSN 779) from a scheduled six-month deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kristina Young/Released)
U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Tammy Smith, right, the Army Reserve’s director of Human Capital Core Enterprise, and her partner, Tracey Hepner, attend the second annual Knights Out Dinner at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y, March 23, 2013. Smith was a Courage Award recipient and keynote speaker at the event. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Stanley Maszczak/Released)
Chief Logistics Specialist Melissa Howard’s wife fastens her ensign shoulder boards during her commissioning ceremony. Howard was commissioned as a limited duty supply corps officer during a commissioning ceremony held onboard USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) Feb. 3. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua Sheppard)
“It’s important we as the LGBT community have a voice that can be heard, instead of being silenced. Being a part of the community has been as rewarding as it is challenging in day to day life, but giving away that voice is never an option.”- Spc. Roderick L. Armstrong Jr. Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 21st Theater Sustainment Command 27D paralegal specialist
Nevada Army National Guard Sgt. Sam Hunt, an electrician with G Company, 2/238th General Support Aviation Battalion poses for a photo on the flight line at the Army Aviation Support Facility in Stead, Nev., May 12, 2017. Hunt is the first openly transgender soldiers of the Nevada National Guard.
The Incirlik Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender committee gather for a photo June 16, 2017, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. The committee hosted an LGBT lunch and Learn panel in which Airmen answered questions from their experiences as LGBT Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristan Campbell)
“A lot of times in life we grow up with one ideal and one way of understanding the world. That’s comfortable for us. Sometimes we have to challenge ourselves to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. For a big part of my life, I grew accustomed to act like the few other gay people in my small Central American town, never “too gay”, never “open” and never speaking about sexuality. Homosexuality in any form was greeted with insults and many times violence, which I sadly had my fair share of. Perhaps, we could gain a different perspective on life and learn more. Instead of disregarding the gay lifestyle and the gay ideals, how about taking a step forward and put yourself in our shoes? Maybe understand what it means to be a gay person. I continue to celebrate pride, so that youth who went through what I had to, or worse, can also one day have the pleasure of feeling loved, feeling accepted and feeling free.” -U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jose Echaverry, left, 86th Logistics Readiness Squadron central storage supervisor Senior Airman Sean Echaverry, right, 86th Medical Squadron surgical technician- “I believe celebrating LGBT and being a part of pride is important because you’re celebrating who you are, the history and understanding the people that went before you and have fought for your rights. We’re still standing up for our rights of who we are, who we believe we are.”
Staff Sgt. Ryan Stimer, 48th Operations Support Squadron air traffic control watch supervisor, and his husband, Staff Sgt. Steven Marking, 436th OSS ATC watch supervisor, hold hands after getting married in Tacoma, Wash., Feb. 17, 2015. Stimer and Marking have been in a two-year long distance relationship since early 2014, and will be stationed together at Dover Air Force Base, Del., Feb 12, 2016. (Courtesy photo)
Brig. Gen. Carol Timmons is promoted to rank of Major General by her wife Lynn Wass and Governor John Carney at the change of command ceremony for adjutant general of Delaware National Guard, at the Army Aviation Support Facility, New Castle, Del. February 12, 2017. (US National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. James Pernol/Released)
“What was it like serving under don’t ask, don’t tell? I was an actress. Every day I lived a double life; I would pretend to be interested in men. After I came out to my family a weight was lifted off my shoulders. Finally, I was proud of who I am. So today, I celebrate for those that are still hiding and not allowed to be themselves. I celebrate for all those before me that fought so hard and gave everything for equality. Pride is self-respect and love. Celebrate so we may never go back in time.” – Ashley Carothers, left, 21st Theater Logistics Support Center supply technician Tamia Russell, right, 2nd Signal Brigade, Systems Center Configuration Manager administrator – “Being in New York, in the west village, I felt the presence of those who struggled at the Stonewall. I’ve learned to appreciate the one thing I can claim as mine, pride month, as a time to celebrate with my brothers and sisters. It’s probably the most important thing I’ve learned. It’s mine and they can’t take it away.”
Staff Sgt. Ashleigh Buch, an instructor with the 338th Combat Training Squadron at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., stands on the Offutt Parade Field Oct. 20, 2016. Buch is the first openly serving transgender Airman to be recommended for a return to flying duties.
Chief Yeoman Diego Villa receives his anchors from his husband, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Adrian Villa Cervantes, during the Chief Petty Officer Pinning Ceremony held aboard Naval Station Rota Sept. 15, 2017. Rota welcomed 23 Sailors and an Air Force tech. sergeant to the chief petty officer (CPO) ranks during the ceremony. Naval Station Rota enables and supports operations of U.S. and allied forces and provides quality services in support of the fleet, fighter, and family for Commander, Navy Installations Command in Navy Region Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class M. Jang/Released)
SAN DIEGO (Feb. 9, 2015) Electronics Technician 2nd Class Thomas Sawicki, winner of the “first kiss” lottery, greets his boyfriend following the return of the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS San Francisco (SSN 711) to Naval Base Point Loma after completing an extended seven-month deployment to the Western Pacific region. San Francisco executed the Chief of Naval Operations’ Maritime Strategy in supporting national security interests and maritime security operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kyle Carlstrom/Released)
Senior Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuel) Cherry Pizzarelle, assigned to the future USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), poses for a photo with her wife Kelly during a senior chief petty officer pinning ceremony aboard Ford. Ford had 15 chief petty officers selected to the rank of senior chief petty officer June 1. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ruben Reed)
Capt. Rendi Clegg, 700th Airlift Squadron navigator, kisses her wife at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, September 18, 2017. Glegg returned to Dobbins after a four month deployment to Al Udeid Air Base, and found wife waiting for her, along with the friends and family of the other Deployers who arrived with Clegg. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sergeant Miles Wilson)
Sgt. Latoya Gaines, warehouse clerk with I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group (Forward), greets her girlfriend Charra Vinson, during an I MHG homecoming event at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Aug. 9. Approximately 100 Marines with I MHG (Forward) returned home from their deployment in Afghanistan.
By J.G. Noll