Yesterday was a historic day for the US military. For the first time active duty men and women, in uniform, participated in the San Diego Pride parade.
As reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune, a number of sailors, soldiers, and Marines marched with an Army truck. The vehicle was decorated with a 'Freedom to Serve' banner and a rainbow flag. The uniformed troops were joined by military peers in civilian clothes.
'Today is so important,' Navy Lt. Brian McKinney said to the newspaper. Marching with Lt. McKinney was his civilian partner, Hunter Hammonds. 'It's about putting on my uniform and taking pride in my service, my fellow service-members, my family and myself. It's something I'm incredibly thankful for,' McKinney continued.
On Thursday, 19 June, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence Rene Bardorf announced the change in policy for this year's parade.
‘Based on our current knowledge of the event and current policies, we hereby are granting approval for service members in uniform to participate in this year’s parade.’
‘San Diego Pride is honored to have the privilege of celebrating our country and our service members with dignity and respect,' San Diego Pride Executive Director Dwayne Crenshaw said about the Defense Department's decision.
From all accounts, the troops were welcomed with open arms.
'Spectators waved signs reading, "Thank you for your service." A woman held a placard that said: "My gay son is a Naval officer",' the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
The significance of yesterday's parade cannot be overstated. For close to 18 years, US troops served under a policy known as Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The policy barred discrimination of gay troops, but also kept military personnel from being out. According to Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a non-profit that works with LGBT sailors, soldiers and airmen, approximately 14,500 troops have been discharged under DADT.