FORT IRWIN, Calif. — The National Training Center held its inaugural Pride Month celebration June 20 at the Sandy Basin Community Center. The event highlighted the service of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) individuals throughout the U.S. Armed Forces.
National Pride Month is celebrated in June each year in commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall riots that helped spark the modern gay rights movement. While LGBT Soldiers have long served in the Army, they could not openly disclose their sexual orientation until the 2011 repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.
Master Chief Petty Officer Dwayne D. Beebe-Franqui, the guest speaker at the event, served in the Navy throughout the duration of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. He said he will never forget the day it was repealed, when he could finally bring “100 percent” of himself to the table.
“I think that the challenges I faced for so many years created this passion in me for other people, and especially the LGBT community, to be seen and live their authentic lives,” he said. “So when repeal happened of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ I believed it in my heart to be an example, to be a mentor, to be somebody who other people can look towards.”
During his 26-year career in the Navy, he has served three presidents and now works as the Force Command Climate Specialist for the Commander at Naval Installations Command in Washington, D.C. He said the most important advice he can give to younger service members is to have goals and stick to them.
“The accomplishments that I have done are just sheer not giving up,” he said. “You just keep working hard, and you may never get noticed, but if you keep working hard, you will achieve that goal. I’ve learned that through so many experiences, that it’s my core belief. I would tell a lot of young service members to dream big and work away at those goals, steadily and slowly, and you will make it.”
The Pride event was hosted by the NTC EO/EEO Offices, the Fort Irwin Medical Activity and the Fort Irwin Dental Clinic Command. In closing remarks, Lt. Col. Elliot Bermudez-Colon, commander of the Fort Irwin Dental Activity, underscored the importance of diversity.
“As we celebrate Pride month, let us take pride in all of the Soldiers and civilians who serve our great nation,” he said. “Here at the National Training Center and Fort Irwin, we celebrate the value of a diverse and inclusive workforce and community.”