NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- The diversity committee onboard the wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) joined the nation in recognition of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month with a small observance June 25.
Sailors decorated the enlisted mess deck with rainbow flags, informative posters filled with historic LGBT rights facts and figures, and played a video that chronicled challenges overcome by the LGBT community.
Original plans for the ceremony included a full program with a guest speaker and entertainment; however, due to social distancing considerations the event had to be scaled down. The event was still special to those in attendance and for whom it represented. The diversity committee designed Kearsarge’s LGBT observance as a self-guided educational experience with artistic flare but most importantly it fostered inclusion and served as a public declaration of support for all of Kearsarge’s crew members.
“This event is important to me because this is the first command that I have been to that makes an attempt to make everyone feel included,” said Master-at-Arms 1st Class Alicia Julien, a member of the diversity committee. “It is an overwhelming feeling to be accepted. Some LGBTQ+ people don’t feel loved by their own family, but it’s amazing to know we are loved by our Kearsarge family.”
Kearsarge’s continuous commitment to celebrating diversity and equality events is especially reassuring to many of the ship’s crew members at a time of great division in society.
“We are enduring a tough time and the resiliency, camaraderie and teamwork shown every day is a testament to whom we are as Sailors serving in the U.S. Navy,” said Capt. Neil Koprowski, Kearsarge’s commanding officer. “One of the things I appreciate most about diversity events like today’s is it gives us all an opportunity to demonstrate solidarity with our Shipmates—each and every one of them."
Each Sailor who attended the observance did so for different reasons. Some were there in support of a loved one, a Shipmate, or friend while others were there to support their community. Each participant took away their own meaning, perspective, and reason for being there.
“Pride to me, isn’t just about LGBT,” says Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class Leogene Porticos, a member of the diversity committee. “It’s about people coming together to celebrate equality, diversity, acceptance, and most of all, self-love. I am proud of who I am, my race, ethnicity and my gender. I am gay and confidently proud.”
The Department of Defense has made great progress in its support of the LGBT community. This year marks the seventh official observance of LGBT Pride Month throughout the DOD, and the 10-year anniversary since the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” (DADT) Repeal Act became law, allowing LGBT service members to serve openly in the military.
Recently many Gay, Lesbian and Supporting Sailors (GLASS) chapters have been started in commands throughout the fleet. The organization is a peer group for gay, lesbian, bisexual Sailors and supportive members that provides a nonjudgmental environment and understanding to express feelings and questions openly.
“We implemented a GLASS chapter onboard Kearsarge last year during deployment to provide our Sailors with year round support culminating with a celebration like the one we held today,” said Koprowski. “I am proud of this ship and her crew.”
LGBT Pride Month was originally established in 1995 by general assembly of the National Education Association and this month marks the 50th anniversary of annual LGBT Pride traditions.
For more news from USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd3/.