Wiesbaden celebrates pride month, progress

Lt. Col. (retired) Joseph Cox who served in the military through the initiation and repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” spoke at the U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden’s first Pride Month Observance at the Tony Bass Auditorium, June 16.

Photos by Amy L. Bugala
Runners dodge splashes of color as they make their way to the finish line during the 5k Color Run for Pride Month June 18 at USAG Wiesbaden.

Garrison aims to increase mutual respect, understanding

The U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden community came together during the month of June to celebrate pride and support diversity during inaugural Pride Month celebrations, here.

A Pride Month Observance and 5k Color Run gave Soldiers, family members and civilians an opportunity to learn more about the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community’s struggle for equality, increase mutual respect and understanding, and to celebrate the Army’s progress.

“Wiesbaden is celebrating its first Pride Month and I am ecstatic to be the Garrison Sergeant Major here during this time. We are moving forward and that’s significant,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Larry Addington during his opening remarks.

A moment of silence was observed before each Pride event to honor those harmed or killed during the recent tragedy at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Photo by Amy L. BugalaLt. Col. (retired) Joseph Cox who served in the military through the initiation and repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” spoke at the U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden’s first Pride Month Observance at the Tony Bass Auditorium, June 16.

Photo by Amy L. Bugala
Lt. Col. (retired) Joseph Cox who served in the military through the initiation and repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” spoke at the U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden’s first Pride Month Observance at the Tony Bass Auditorium, June 16.

The observance, hosted by Wiesbaden’s Community of Equal Opportunity Advisors, featured guest speaker Lt. Col. (retired) Joseph Cox who served for 26 years in the military through the initiation and repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” U.S. policy on gays in the military.

During his remarks, Cox spoke about what it is like to be a gay service member, he highlighted the history and struggles of the LGBT movement, and shared stories about several male and female service members whose careers were affected by DADT.

“Throughout much of our history, being identified as gay would put you at risk socially, professionally, and legally,” said Cox. Gay service members expect to be held to the same standard as every other service member he said. “If you’re gay, be the best you can be. Don’t let other people’s ignorance determine your actions,” he said. “Your technical and tactical competence and total professionalism will carry more weight than a 100 court cases.”

The repeal of DADT in September of 2011 marked a significant turning point for the LGB community who could now serve in the military openly.

“We no longer had to hide in the shadows, fearful that someone could destroy our lives based on rumors and innuendo,” he added.

The overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2015 further acknowledged that homosexuals deserve the same right to marriage and happiness.

The Status of Forces Agreement, or SOFA, policies as they apply to LGBT service members overseas were also clarified during the event.

“SOFA status can be granted to same sex-spouses in Germany,” confirmed Skip Nollenberger, attorney with the Wiesbaden Legal Center. “A valid marriage, is now a valid marriage,” he said.

Representatives from various other organizations provided information and supported the event to include; the Wiesbaden Library, Military Family Life Consultants, Army Public Health Nurse, the Arts and Crafts Center and the Germany chapter of OutServe, a worldwide organization providing support and resources to LGBT service members.

The weekend following the observance, more than 300 runners and walkers also celebrated Pride Month during the third annual Family and MWR 5k Color Run on Clay Kaserne, June 18.

USAG Wiesbaden is one of only a few garrisons in Europe conducting Pride Month observances according to Sgt. 1st Class Brittney Pechie, equal opportunity advisor for the garrison, and having an opportunity in Wiesbaden to support the LGBT community was important to participants.

“It’s for a good cause especially after what happened last week in Orlando. We were going to do the run before [the Pulse Nightclub tragedy], but we’re even more inspired now,” said Karen Beard, a participant at the event.

Pechie also noted the significance of the events this year and the progress the Army is making. “The [Pride] program is going to grow within our Army. Changes are going to come and we have to be able to embrace them,” said Pechie.

Cox who also served as the former President of OutServe, encouraged the garrison to keep up the momentum. “The first step is always the hardest, and once you’ve started on the journey it’s easier to stay on the journey,” he said.

The last USAG Wiesbaden Pride Month event will be a free showing of the movie “The Bird Cage”, June 23 at 7 p.m. at the Tony Bass Auditorium.

To see more photos from the Pride Color Run go to www.flickr.com/photos/wpao/albums/72157667347109603.

About OutServe

Lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender service members, Department of Defense civilians, contractors or family members in the Wiesbaden area can find a supportive community through the worldwide organization OutServe – Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

Ashley Carothers, who serves as the Germany Chapter President, said the organization’s mission is to educate the community and provide legal services and resources that help LGBT military members grow personally and professionally as they work toward equality for all.

OutServe does this by developing training materials for military installations and units, conducting and supporting various Pride events throughout Europe, and ensuring access to community resources that help LGBT members and their families work through the challenges of being stationed overseas.

“LGBT military members overseas have a support group, that’s us. That’s OutServe,” Carothers said.
The organization has over 75,000 followers and more than 7,000 active members associated with more than 80 chapters worldwide.

For more information about the Weisbaden OutServe chapter visit:

https://www.outserve-sldn.org or contact the Hessen OutServe coordinator, Derek Cox at hessen@germany.outserve.org.