Story by A1C Monica Roybal on 07/01/2019In 2009, President Barack Obama designated the month of June the official observance for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer or Questioning Pride Month. The observance promotes equal rights regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and recognizes contributions made by LGBTQ community members.
This year marked the first Pride 5K run at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, hosted by U.S. Army Spc. Jimmy Scott-Tingle, Medical Department Activity patient administration specialist, on Fort Eustis, June 21, 2019.
"I don't think people know the importance of Pride Month and I think it needs to be shown," Scott-Tingle said. "This needs to be an annual event because I saw how much the Soldiers enjoyed themselves out there today. LGBTQ members still battle issues every day. We deal with the way people talk and the insensitive terms that are used. Many people may not know they are being insensitive and that's where the importance of raising awareness comes in."
More than 100 runners, including members from the 128th Aviation Brigade's Bravo and Charlie companies, MEDDAC members, emergency medical services team members, Fort Lee personnel, family members and civilians, participated to show support for the LGBTQ community and promote equality throughout the military. The runners displayed their pride with rainbow colored attire and rainbow flags.
"Having the flag out there was a very important aspect because all of those colors signify unity and that we are all one team," Scott-Tingle explained. "I think that Fort Eustis leadership allowing us to show our pride with our colors is an acknowledgement that we are all one team with one purpose and that purpose is to complete our mission."
Scott-Tingle kicked off the run by waving his flag and leading the runners to break through a paper banner with the word "equality" painted on it.
"When I grabbed that flag to start to run off, my heart was so full and so warm," Scott-Tingle said. "It was overwhelming and I was happy that our (Advanced Individual Training) Soldiers got to see their platoon sergeants out there showing their support, as well as key Fort Eustis leaders. They are our new Army and they need to know that our Army will accept and support them."
The AIT Soldiers were given permission to participate on a volunteer basis. According to Spc. Kristiana Kenny, Bravo Company, 222nd Aviation Regiment, 1st Aviation Battalion, 128th Aviation Brigade AH-64 armament/electrical/avionics systems repairer, the Soldiers were excited to get to participate in the first Pride run at JBLE.
"We are proud that JBLE allowed this run to happen," Kenny said. "I think by showing photos of Soldiers running with the Pride flag will show people in the community that we do welcome everyone and if they are thinking about joining, they don't have to be worried about acceptance."
Scott-Tingle explained the importance of raising awareness for LGBTQ equality in the military and a key aspect of maintaining a welcoming environment is consistency. He said he hopes to make the Pride 5K run a tradition at JLBE and he hopes to see the number of participants increase with each year.
"We are going to have a lot more LGBTQ people join the military and they need to know that they are safe," Scott-Tingle said. "We will have to work together whether it's on the battlefield or at our duty stations. The gender of your spouse has no bearing on how much you are willing to protect the Soldier next to you. If you have a rifle in your hand, you're out there fighting the same fight and protecting the person next to you no matter the race, gender or sexual orientation."