SOUTH CHINA SEA (NNS) -- Sailors aboard guided-missile destroyer USS Momsen (DDG 92) joined the nation in celebration of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month with a ceremony held on the mess decks June 28.
Established by Presidential Proclamation in 2000, LGBT Pride Month is held annually and recognizes the importance of diversity within our society as well as the many achievements of LGBT leaders such as Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay people elected to public office. This year's theme is "celebration," and calls Americans to eliminate prejudice and celebrate their diversity.
"The observance of LGBT month brings us one step closer to a stronger, united force for good and allows everyone the opportunity to be proud to be a United Sates service member," said Cmdr. Elaine Brunelle, Momsen's executive officer.
The LGBT movement was strengthened by the 2011 repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and created a landmark for our country's service members by allowing gays, lesbians and bisexuals to serve openly in the United States Armed Forces.
"We wanted to show the progress we've made since the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,'" said Electrician's Mate 2nd Class Amber Hartman. "Observances like these are important because it highlights all the different types of people we have in the Navy. It helps fellow Sailors understand each other's history and background."
In 2012, the Department of Defense (DoD) first observed June as LGBT Pride Month in order to highlight diversity and enhance the inclusion of all service members, including those who are lesbian, gay, and bisexual. Four years later, some Momsen Sailors shared their personal stories with the crew through videotaped interviews.
"I consider being gay a small facet of who I am," said Yeoman 2nd Class Colin Koob. "It doesn't define me as a person. Letting other Sailors see me might help their understanding that we're just like them. We're normal people. I also want the LGBT community in the military to know that they are not alone. The LGBT community is inclusive and the Navy is inclusive as well. They're both very accepting cultures."
Unfortunately there is a history of discrimination against LGBT people in the military, and it was not until Bill Clinton's presidential campaign that acceptance of gay and lesbian service members was addressed.
"Gay people have been fighting nonstop for equal rights," said Koob. "Time has healed many wounds since the repeal of DADT, but the fight isn't over. There's still progress to be made."
Through the observance and acknowledgment of LGBT Pride Month, the Navy continues to strengthen the service through diversity, which encompasses more than race and gender. It includes diversity of thought, background, language, culture and skills.
"Our Sailors come from all walks of life, and we are simply better at what we do when we are more diverse," said Cmdr. Jason Kipp, Momsen's commanding officer. "Our Sailors are the best in the fleet regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation and creed. By engaging in heritage months like LGBT pride, it reinforces our commitment to mission success by embracing Sailors' unique backgrounds to enhance our interoperability as a global warfighter."
Momsen is currently underway in the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region as part of a Pacific Surface Action Group (PAC SAG) with guided-missile destroyers USS Spruance (DDG 111) and USS Decatur (DDG 73), under the operations of Destroyer Squadron (CDS) 31.
The U.S. Navy maintains a presence in the region to help preserve peace and security and to further their partnerships with friends and allies. This forward presence contributes to freedom of navigation and lawful use of the sea, as well as furthers operational training and enables an exchange of culture, skills, and tactical knowledge.
Under the operational control of U.S. 3rd Fleet, the PAC SAG conducts routine patrols, maritime security operations, and theater cooperation activities to enhance regional security and stability.
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