Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta saluted gay members of the military Friday marking national Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month. The message from Panetta, the first ever of its kind, comes the same day the Pentagon confirmed it will also hold a DOD event in honor of homosexual soldiers.
"As we recognize Pride month, I want to personally thank all of our gay and lesbian service members, LGBT civilians, and their families for their dedicated service to our country," Panetta said in a video message released Friday.
"Before the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' you faithfully served your country with professionalism and courage. And just like your fellow service members, you put your country before yourself. And now - after repeal, you can be proud of serving your country, and be proud of who you are when in uniform."
The message is a huge victory for the American LGBT community, especially those serving in the armed forces. The military's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' (DADT) policy, repealed by President Barack Obama in 2010 and implemented in September 2011 after review, allows members of the armed forces to openly declare they are part of the LGBT community.
The Pentagon will also host an event sometime in June commemorating LGBT Pride Month. Spokesman at the DOD said no details on the event are yet forthcoming.
As of last month, Panetta said reports he had received from commanders and leaders mentioned no morale and readiness were in no way effected by the policy change. On the contrary, once-secret groups of gay soldiers, such as OurServe and Knights Out, have seen their ranks and popularity swell, bolstering camaraderie.
The president will also mark LGBT Pride Month Friday, hosting an afternoon reception for gay leaders in the East Room of the White House.
Panetta, a long-time proponent for the policy change even before he became Secretary of Defense last year, added in his message he would continue to push for implementation the repeal.
"Going forward, I remain committed to removing as many barriers as possible to make America's military a model of equal opportunity, to ensure all who are qualified can serve in America's military, and to give every man and woman in uniform the opportunity to rise to their highest potential."
by RTT Staff Writer
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