30 June 2015

U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, Lt. Col. Katherine A. Bruch, speaks about her experiences and the changes in her life during the 2015 Fort Detrick Pride Month Observance June 19, at the Fort Detrick Auditorium. Photo by Nick Minecci, USAG Public Affairs
Fort Detrick Community Gathers for Pride Month Observance
By Nick Minecci USAG Public Affairs

President Barack Obama declared June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month, and the Fort Detrick celebrated the achievements and sacrifices of LGBT community during the Fort Detrick Pride Month Observance June 19, at the Fort Detrick Auditorium.

The theme of this year’s event was "Celebrating Victories that have Affirmed Freedom and Fairness," and the guest speak was U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, Lt. Col. Katherine A. Bruch.

Bruch spoke about her time in the Army, as an enlisted Soldier and a commissioned officer, living with the knowledge and fear that no matter how she excelled at her job, she could be discharged from the Army for who she loved. That all changed on Sept. 20, 2011, when the U.S. military ended the policy known as "Don't ask, don't tell,” and LBG men and women could serve openly for the first time.

“For the first nearly 21 years of my military career, I woke up every morning, like many other gay service members, knowing in the very back of my mind, that I could lose my life's vocation at any time, that despite outstanding performance, I could be involuntarily separated from the Army I chose to serve - the Army I love - for who I love.

“On 20 September 2011, while I was forward deployed in Afghanistan, all of those concerns fell away for me...as they did for thousands of other U.S. service members across the globe, who also happen to be gay – private to command sergeant major, and second lieutenant to general officer,” Bruch told the crowd of several dozen.

“It's hard for me to explain to you what my years of service felt like before 20 September 2011, but I imagine it would be comparable to what you would feel if your employer could fire you at will because of the relationship you have with your spouse or significant other,” said Bruch.

While for many Sept. 20, 2011 was just another day, Bruch told the crowd how she still can recall vividly what she was doing and thinking on her first day of true freedom while serving with the 44th Medical Brigade in Afghanistan.

“Somehow I had expected to experience some amazingly earth shattering revelation that day, but when the day finally ended, like all others before it. As I quietly trudged back to my hooch, I recognized that it was truly an amazing day, though not in the way I had perhaps envisioned.  The quintessential result at the end of that day was that we were all still Soldiers, and we were all still doing our jobs, just like every day before. Nothing had really changed, but everything had changed,” she said.

As the day ended and a new day began, life continued and the military carried on with the mission.

“The dire predictions of mass disruptions, issues with recruiting and retention, morale, readiness, combat effectiveness, and discipline were, flat out, never realized,” she said.

“As with all change, there will be a period of adjustment, and there will be those who are resistant to the change. Though it has been many years since racial and gender integration, we still have our fair share of bigots, racists, and chauvinists in the Army, but that does not take away from the positive impact that the Civil Rights movement made on our Army and our country. Equal rights and benefits coupled with equal responsibilities are the hallmark, the foundation, of our service in defense of freedom.”

With the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” service members are now free from the fear of losing everything they have built in their career, and Bruch said who she loves has no impact on how she does her mission.

“For those who knew me five minutes ago, but perhaps didn't know this particular facet of my life, I am the exact same person I was five minutes ago ...the same person I've been all my life,” she said.

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