By Brig. Gen. William Crane
Diversity and inclusion are fundamental aspects of American life. From the very beginning of our nation, the phrase “all men are created equal”, has been etched upon our souls as a people, not only as a moral obligation, but as a responsibility to strive towards, and as a legacy to build upon.
As we enter Pride Month, we must acknowledge that we as a people, and we as a military, have not always lived up to that obligation, and have often lacked in that responsibility.
Members of the LGBTQ+ community have served in our military since before we were a nation, including men such as Baron Friedrich von Stueben, an openly gay former Prussian military officer who was instrumental in training the Continental Army during the winter at Valley Forge, and who became one of General Washington’s most trusted advisors. His service is directly credited in creating the professional Army and Armed Forces we all represent today.
Since then, and until today, LGBTQ+ individuals have served with distinction, honor, and courage throughout our ranks. All have faced hardships and struggles to be able to serve, often having to hide the very essence of themselves from their fellow servicemembers. No more.
Today, our military follows the basic tenet that all Americans who are qualified to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States will be able to do so – and proudly. This is regardless of previous discriminatory policies that banned people based upon their gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Our all-volunteer force thrives when it is composed of diverse Americans who can meet the rigorous standards for military service, and an inclusive military strengthens our national security.
Discrimination, hatred, bigotry, and shame have absolutely no place in our One Guard family. As leaders, it is our duty to foster a productive and safe work environment that is welcoming, supportive, and inclusive so that we can all thrive and attain our personal and professional goals. These are American values, and West Virginian values.
Unity of effort which drives us as a military organization is found in tolerance through respecting and celebrating our differences. We all have something to bring to the table to successfully carry out our mission. Every qualified American should have an opportunity to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. It is our guiding document and Americans have a proud history of service.
As we recognize Pride month, let us resolve that support for LGBTQ+ servicemembers doesn’t begin or end in the month of June. We must meet our moral obligation to enable equality and protect Soldiers and Airmen from discrimination in our ranks, and to strive towards our responsibility to live by our core values of respect, honor, integrity, and personal courage year-round.
And let that be the legacy we build today in our One Guard family.