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First African American combat pilot praises end of gay military ban

Vernice ‘FlyGirl’ Armour says she is pleased gays can now fight and die for the US, free to be who they really are
Vernice Armour, the first female African American combat pilot and a gay woman.
Photo by Scott Nunn.

The first African American female combat pilot has spoken about being gay and how pleased she is Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) is over.

DADT, which prevented lesbian, gay and bisexual people from serving openly in the US armed forces, finished a year ago. Research has since shown the change has had no impact on morale or military readiness.

Vernice ‘FlyGirl’ Armour left the US Marines several years ago after a career as a helicopter combat pilot including deployments in Iraq and around the Middle East.

Speaking at Out & Equal’s LGBT Workplace Summit in Baltimore earlier today (31 October), she encouraged delegates attending a women’s leadership breakfast to ‘take a gutsy move’ and push the equality agenda.

But she also spoke of her delight at the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

She said: ‘Folks getting to be who they are and die for their country being who they are is very important to me.

‘One of my former partners I met her in flight school. She was out on shift and her helicopter almost fell into the ocean one particular night.

‘And she decided at that point she didn’t want to serve any more because had her helicopter gone in and she had perished, her partner would have found out about her demise on the news. Her mom would have gotten the call but her partner wouldn’t have known anything.’

She said she had felt the problem herself when coming back from deployment with other people’s lovers running across to kiss them but her partner not being able to do so.

‘I used to call myself a triple threat,’ she said. ‘Not only was I a woman, I was black and I was gay. So the military was an interesting place to be.

‘It wasn’t just about life assurance and taxes. It was about your life and who you are and how you served day in, day out.

‘This transformation we have had is huge and I am very excited for the men and women who get to serve truly being out and equal and who they are.’

Armour, who now jokingly describes herself as a ‘recovering combat pilot and unemployed comedian’ also shared that she was planning her own ‘gutsy move’ having proposed to a friend recently – who agreed to marry her.

That means she is moving home to be with her partner.

She said: ‘I’m calling it “operation sweep her off her feet”. I met someone about four and a half years ago and we were friends for the longest time. Six months ago I decided I was going to marry her. And we hadn’t spoken for two years.

‘So I texted her out of the blue. And she called me and it was great and I was jumping up and down in the middle of Atlanta Terminal C, the busiest airport in the world. And I said, “I’m going to marry that woman”.

‘Sometimes you just have to take a gutsy move. When I find myself playing it safe I know I’m not going to be doing what I need to do.’

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