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Progression, acceptance and our LGBT Airmen
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Joseph Kay, 7th Force Support Squadron, wears a shirt that shows his support during Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) month June 18, 2014, on Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. June highlights the achievements of those in the LGBT community serving in the military. (U.S. Air Force photo Airman 1st Class Kylsee Wisseman/Released)
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Progression, acceptance and our LGBT Airmen

Posted 7/1/2014   Updated 7/1/2014 Email story   Print story

    


by Airman 1st Class Autumn Velez
7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs


7/1/2014 - DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Diversity - it's what makes up the ranks of the United States Air Force. Between women serving side by side with men, to having Airmen from every ethnic background, the Air Force has a culture of acceptance.

In 2011, the Department of Defense repealed Don't Ask Don't Tell, followed by the first annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender pride observance month in 2013. For many, this meant they could openly serve without facing repercussions; for others, it was the beginning of self-acceptance.

For the LGBT community, June is a celebration of the achievements of those Airmen who have a different sexual orientation. By celebrating this month, it shows not only peers support this aspect of their lives, but it also encourages the decision of those Airmen to come out and serve their country in their full capacity, while still being true to themselves.

Chief Master Sgt. Pamela Rathers, 7th Logistics Readiness Squadron chief enlisted manager, felt LGBT Pride month was the perfect opportunity for her to come forward and tell her story. Before now, many people did not know Rathers is also a lesbian.

"As a chief master sergeant in the Air Force, I hold a very distinctive role and a responsibility to lead from the front," Chief Rathers said. "I've sat in silence too long and our leaders have fought too hard to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. As a lesbian, I could not sit back and not support this opportunity to celebrate and recognize the importance of diversity in our Air Force."

Chief Rathers served much of her career during the Don't Ask, Don't Tell era, where she was forced to hide her private life. For her, serving in the Air Force had always been about the second core value, service before self.

"As I watched many great Airmen separate or retire from the Air Force because they could no longer compromise the core value of integrity first, I chose to display another core value, service before self, and continue to serve my country," the chief said. "My commitment and patriotism were much bigger than myself."

Even though Chief Rathers is a lesbian, her ability to achieve the rank of chief master sergeant was not hindered.

"I was treated no different as I progressed through the ranks and achieved my goal of being in the top one percent of the Air Force," she said.

Like the chief, 1st Lt. Daniel Klimkowski, 7th Logistics Readiness Squadron operations compliance flight commander, is also part of the LGBT community.

"With the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, I started to do some soul searching and realized what always felt off in my life. I was not a heterosexual man, I was a homosexual man," Lieutenant Klimkowski said.

Lieutenant Klimkowski continues to strive for the best results regardless of his sexual orientation.

"Me being an openly gay man has zero effect on how well I can accomplish the mission," he said.

Being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender does not affect the Air Force mission.
"I have never tried to hide anything about my sexuality. I've had zero issues and no one has confronted me," Lieutenant Klimkowski said. "That alone goes to show it isn't as big of a deal as everyone on both sides of the thought process make it out to be."

At the end of the day, it is about a culture of acceptance in the Air Force that makes it possible to accomplish the mission each and every day.

"It's important to remain accepting of people's decisions and choices we know we will never understand," Lieutenant Klimkowski said. "Everyone is trying to be the happiest person possible by creating the best lives for themselves."



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