Friday marked a new achievement for gays in the months after the revocation of the ban on open gays in service of the U.S. military: A proud wife Tracey Hepner, co-founder of the Military Partners and Families Coalition, fixed a star insignia on her spouse Tammy Smith's shoulder — the formal sign of an Army brigadier general.
Smith received her stars to become the country’s first openly gay flag officer in a private ceremony held at the Women's Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. A press release about the event was distributed to the media by the Service Members Legal Defense Network, a group working for the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender in the U.S. military.
Friday was also the first day Smith openly admitted being a gay. Her acknowledgement came less than a year after the end of the military policy "don't ask, don't tell,” under which service members were subject to severe punishment or discharge if they admitted being gay or lesbian.
"I don’t think I need to be focused on that. What is relevant is upholding Army values and the responsibility this carries,” Smith said, according to The Atlantic Wire.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta thanked gay service members via a YouTube video. He also welcomed the ban’s revocation.
It is pertinent to mention here that in June, the Pentagon organized a Gay Pride Month occasion and in July, military members put on their official uniforms at a gay parade in San Diego. It was for the first time that the Defense Department had permitted such an observance.
Hepner and Smith got married IN 2011 in Washington, D.C. Prior to the cancellation of the don’t ask, don’t tell policy, the two were unable to present themselves as a couple at military gatherings.
“It is indeed a new era in America’s military when our most accomplished leaders are able to recognize who they are and serve the country they love at the same time," Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Service Members Legal Defense Network said in a statement, according to CNN.