Serving openly, honorably – LGBT members part of diverse military culture

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Ali Garced
  • 71st FTW Legal Office
More than 14,000 people were discharged under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. However, since that policy was changed, people of all sexual orientations are allowed to serve our country.

The Department of Defense started its observation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month in 2013 and designated the month of June as the annual observance month to be recognized by military and civilian members of the Armed Forces.

Following is a list of prominent men and women who are openly gay, and serve or have served America in the military.

Air Force Maj. Gen. Patricia Rose, the Air Force Material Command mobilization assistant to the commander, is the highest ranking openly gay officer in the U.S. military. Rose waited until the repeal of DADT to come out as a lesbian and a few months later, married retired naval officer, Julie Roth in Washington, where same-sex marriage had been recently legalized. Then in a small ceremony Rose's wife pinned on her second star.

Since joining the Air Force through Officer Training School in 1984, Rose earned 13 major awards and decorations. As a logistician, she has served assignments in both aircraft maintenance and transportation squadrons in seven different commands. In her civilian life, she is the public relations and marketing director for a local hospital.

Rose's friend and neighbor, who pinned on her first star, retired Col. Margarethe Cammermeyer served with distinction in the Washington National Guard. She joined the military in 1961 through the Army Student Nurse program.

She was married for 15 years before coming to terms with her homosexuality. When she accepted the position of chief nurse of the Washington National Guard and told her superiors that she was a lesbian, she was separated from service. In 1992, her attorneys filed a suit on her behalf, challenging the existing ban on homosexuals in the military and requesting her reinstatement. She was reinstated in 1994, finished her commitment, and after 31 years of service to America, she retired with full military privileges in 1997. Her story is told in the film "Serving in Silence."

Another prominent gay member is Undersecretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning. In 2012, Fanning became the highest ranking LGBT person in the Department of Defense when he was named the acting-Secretary of the Air Force. He assumed the job from Air Force Secretary Michael Donley who retired. Fanning was asked to take over the role as Secretary of the Air Force until President Barack Obama nominated a replacement.

As acting-Secretary of the Air Force, Fanning was responsible for the activities of the Department of the Air Force, including the lives and wellbeing of more than 680,000 active duty, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve, civilians, and their families. He also oversaw the Air Force's annual budget of more than $110 billion by serving as co-chair of the top Air Force corporate decision making body, the Air Force Council.

Retired Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, served in the Air Force from 1991-2011 as an F-15E fighter pilot. Fehrenbach served in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. He flew 88 combat missions and accumulated more than 400 combat hours. He announced he was gay on national television in 2009, after the Air Force started discharge proceedings against him. The action was interrupted by the repeal of DADT.

Former Navy SEAL, Brett Jones, kept his sexuality a secret since he was a child in order to serve with one of the most elite military forces in the world. Jones was investigated when a third party overheard him say "I love you" to another his boyfriend in a voicemail. Jones was honorably discharged in 2003.

LGBT service members add diversity to the military. The Department of Defense recognizes and values diversity within its forces. One way to show this is designating special observance months with the purpose of combating stereotypes.