Airmen celebrate LGBT Pride Month

Base Info
Senior Airman Kyle Merrick, 36th Wing emergency action controller, speaks on the history of Tech. Sgt. Leonard Matlovich, June 26, 2015, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Matlovich was a Vietnam veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star, who fought against a ban of gay service members by publicly outing himself as homosexual in 1975. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Alexander W. Riedel/Released)
Senior Airman Kyle Merrick, 36th Wing emergency action controller, speaks on the history of Tech. Sgt. Leonard Matlovich, June 26, 2015, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Matlovich was a Vietnam veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star, who fought against a ban of gay service members by publicly outing himself as homosexual in 1975. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Alexander W. Riedel/Released)

Airmen celebrate LGBT Pride Month

by: Senior Airman Alexander W. Riedel, 36th Wing Public Affairs | .
Andersen Air Force Base | .
published: July 04, 2015

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- On the eve of the Supreme Court's decision guaranteeing Americans the right to same-sex marriage, members of Andersen Air Force Base gathered here June 26 to celebrate LGBT Pride Month.

Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and its supporters came together at the High Tides Lounge in support of equality, freedom and civil rights in a commemorative social evening.

Organized by the 36th Wing Equal Opportunity office, the open-mic event was the first of its kind at Andersen AFB and included readings on LGBT and civil rights history, poetry and song presentations.

"Celebrating Pride Month is another way for us to celebrate diversity," said Staff Sgt. Crystal Maldonado, 36th Wing Equal Opportunity adviser. "It allows us to highlight accomplishments of our Airmen and raise awareness of this varied community."

Speeches and presentations included stories of activists such as Tech. Sgt. Leonard P. Matlovich, a Vietnam veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, who in 1975 publicly outed himself as gay in a protest against Pentagon policies. By introducing the struggles and accomplishments of activists and gay service members who have promoted the ideals of equal rights in the past, Maldonado said the event intended to call attention to LGBT issues.

"This event is for everybody," Maldonado said. "It honors the service of our LGBT members, but it is also serves to educate, highlight and present knowledge on this community throughout recent history. We highlight achievements and victories in diversity. The struggles and successes of this community are part of our history and who we are as a service today."

Like colors in a set of of colored pencils, Maldonado said, different personalities are needed to complete the Air Force picture.

"Each color is different, but you can't bring the whole picture together without different colors," she said. "That's the advantage of diversity. We couldn't do what we do without Airmen of different backgrounds; whether that's family, education, religion and race, to complete our mission."

Staff Sgt. Amber Morton, 36th Wing military justice paralegal and one the presenters, served under the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, which was repealed in 2011. Morton said the month offers time to remember veterans and activists who have contributed to an ongoing increase of cultural acceptance and tolerance.

"LGBT Pride month to me means inclusion and change," Morton said. "It's an opportunity to educate those who don't know anything about the LGBT community and it's a chance to come together as a unique group and celebrate who we are, how far we've come and the pioneers before us who led the way towards change."

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