President Barack Obama declared June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month, and the Defense Department is highlighting the importance of leadership as it celebrates the achievements and sacrifices of LGBT servicemembers and LGBT civilians.
Locally on the Gulf Coast, servicemembers are celebrating the recognition of equal rights of all servicemembers while honoring the victims of the June 12 Orlando terror attack on the LGBT community.
Speaking at a DoD Pride Month luncheon in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. on June 16, Master Chief Petty Officer Dwayne D. Beebe-Franqui recalled his experiences and how being different impacted his life and subsequently, his military career.
Beebe-Franqui recalled that for far too long, gay, lesbian and bisexual service members, LGBT DoD civilians, and their partners and families were unable to serve. Beebe-Franqui is a command climate specialist and equal opportunity advisor from the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training in Pensacola, Fla.
The DoD added its first Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month as an annual observance to be recognized by military and civilian members of the armed forces in June 2013.
Col. Matthew Higer, 96th Test Wing vice commander at Eglin Air Force Base, invited attendees to take part in honoring the victims and celebrating the progress made on LGBT issues during the luncheon. During the ceremony, tea lights flickered in honor of the Orlando terror attack.
The Defense Department and the nation depend every day on the service of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender personnel, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said to all servicemembers. “They are an integral part of our armed forces and our Department of Defense and our nation.”
DoD Pride Month is an opportunity to celebrate and recognize the importance of diversity within the department, “and the values that make our department strong,” Work said.
“I firmly believe that our all-volunteer force is now stronger because of the diversity and culture of inclusion we celebrate this very day and this entire month,” Work added. “The United States military is, without a doubt, the finest in the world today.”