Story by Bernard Little on 06/13/2019Walter Reed Bethesda hosted a LGBTQ Pride Month event June 5 in the rotunda of the iconic Tower at the medical center. Maj. Gen. Tammy Smith, Headquarters, Department of the Army G-1, and the U.S. military's first openly gay flag officer, served as guest speaker at the program.
During her more than 30-year military career, Smith has served as the Eighth Army-Korea deputy commanding general for sustainment, in addition to a number of other logistics, operations, training and personnel assignments, including at the Pentagon. Her deployments included service in Panama, Costa Rica and Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Smith encouraged people to be "authentic" during her message to the Walter Reed Bethesda community. She stated that when people aren't authentic, they build pauses and hesitation in their lives. "As professionals here at this medical center, there's no way you can afford to hesitate. You can't protect people from infectious disease if you hesitate. You can't respond to a heart attack if you hesitate. You can't stop the bleeding [of someone], or give comfort to a grieving parent, if you hesitate."
While taking safety into consideration, Smith stressed the importance of not building hesitation toward accomplishing the daily activities of the important work at WRNMMC. "You want to make sure you create an atmosphere where people can collaborate without hesitation. Personally, I think it starts with believing in our core values and creating a command climate of workplace respect."
The general added that the service values of each branch are basically the same, "but they lead us to a place where we act with integrity; we treat people with dignity and respect; we act in a selfless way; we honor those around us; we have loyalty to our organization; and we certainly have personal courage that keeps us from [hesitation]. Our values work in conjunction with the mindset we build to make a positive, performing organization."
She furthered that diversity is also important because people are able to bring their different experiences to the table for positive contributions. "We can't be too same or we will all think the same and have blind spots. Diversity is more than the demographics. It's our understanding that our experiences are different and because of that, we may have different viewpoints." She added by working together and contributing their different points of view, people may come to the best solution for solving challenges. "Because we made our client healthy, I know I can speak up and be authentic about what my view is to help solve that problem."
LGBTQ Pride Month has its genesis in the Stonewall riots.
Fifty years ago, demonstrations by members and supporters of the LGBTQ community took place in response to a police raid that occurred during the early morning of June 28, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn, a bar in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. At the time, police raided bars frequented by members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community were common occurring on average once a month for each bar, according to historian Martin Duberman. Writer and historian of the LGBTQ civil rights movement, David Carter, noted that there was a raid at the Stonewall Inn on the Tuesday before the Saturday morning raid that led to the Stonewall Inn riots protesting the treatment of those in the LGBTQ community.
Historians have described the Stonewall raid and resulting riots as seminal events in the modern American gay rights movement.
Brenda Howard, known as the "Mother of Pride" for her efforts coordinating a rally to commemorate the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots, also originated the idea of a week-long series of events around Pride Day. This started the annual LGBTQ Pride celebrations, now held globally every June, which became LGBTQ Pride Month.
Discussing the challenges she faced as a gay woman in the military prior to the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" in 2010, Smith explained LGBTQ observances are important so people can "move to a place of authenticity and have their own personal Stonewall."