LGBT Pride Month makes service members feel supported

LGBT Pride Month makes service members feel supported

Army Spc. David Gregory, a financial management technician in the Arizona Army National Guard’s 160th Finance Detachment, prepares to fly from Papago Park Military Reservation in Phoenix to Camp Navajo in a UH-60 Black Hawk for annual training June 7. Gregory has openly served in the military since the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. (National Gaurd photo by Army Sgt. Crystal Reidy)

PHOENIX - In the recent past, gay Soldiers had to choose between serving their country or openly being themselves. Now the Department of Defense observes Pride Month every June as an opportunity to celebrate Soldiers never having to make that choice again.

“I think celebrating Pride Month in the military helps Soldiers feel supported, and feel like they fit into the Guard,” said Army Spc. David Gregory, a financial management technician in the 160th Finance Detachment.

In his three years of service in the Arizona Army National Guard, Gregory experienced having to hide his sexual orientation and witnessed the transition to a military that accepts him.

The Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 ended previous don't ask, don't tell policies. Since then, members of the LGBT community are allowed to serve openly in the United States armed forces.

“When the DADT policy was eliminated it made me feel more comfortable around fellow Soldiers. I could be myself and Soldiers could ask me questions about my personal life without getting into trouble,” Gregory said.

When Gregory went through basic training he couldn’t be himself. He was forced to refer to his boyfriend as a girlfriend and could not receive care packages from his partner the way other Soldiers received cards and letters from their significant others.

“It was hard to feel supported by the Army when the regulations said I couldn’t be myself. It restricted the support my boyfriend could give me when I was at school,” Gregory said.

Two days before he graduated from advanced individual training, DADT was repealed and Gregory could be open about his lifestyle.

“It is great now because I can talk openly about my relationships without being scrutinized or judged,” he said.

Gregory said his leaders in the Arizona Guard are supportive and he doesn’t feel his sexual orientation impacts his career one way or the other.

His detachment disbursing officer, 1st Lt. Dan Broussard, said having a gay Soldier in his unit doesn’t change anything.

“You just see them as a Soldier,” Broussard said. “As long as they can ruck, we are good.” Soldiers in his unit know he is gay and are very accepting and welcoming, he said.

Gregory’s advice to other gay Soldiers is to be themselves.

“Find those battle buddies that keep you positive and motivated and just focus on the mission,” he said.