Pride Month celebrates equality, diversity Published June 30, 2014 By Senior Airman Katrina M. Brisbin 36th Wing Public Affairs ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- Approximately 45 years ago, supporters of the Stonewall Inn in New York City resisted police harassment that had become common for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Out of this resistance, the LGBT rights movement in America was born. This year, Andersen Air Force Base celebrated Pride Month for the first time. Ten special observance committee members organized two separate events. The first was an informational booth where LGBT history information was provided. The second event was a neon 5K run. Approximately 60 people participated in the event to show support for LGBT pride and equality. "It brings excitement to see our society within the military become more tolerable and to have a larger push for equality," said Senior Airman Kyle Merrick, Andersen Air Force special observance committee co-chairman. Merrick joined the Air Force in 2011. Although "Don't Ask Don't Tell" was repealed in September 2011 and the social climate was accepting and more receptive of the LGBT community, he didn't feel comfortable acknowledging his orientation to others in the military. "When I was hiding who I was when I first joined, it killed me inside," said Merrick. "I was myself with my friends but as soon as I went into work, I knew it was time for me to pretend." In the past, LGBT military members had to choose between being true to themselves and serving their country. Now the Department of Defense observes Pride Month every June as an opportunity to celebrate acceptance, justice and equality. "We are moving into a time where it's about how you carry yourself as a professional," said Airman 1st Class Deandre Knight, Andersen AFB special observance committee co-chairman. "It has nothing to do with your personal life." Knight joined the Air Force in 2013. Being openly gay and a military brat, he was aware of the adversity and struggles LGBT military members powered through prior to him joining the service. "I would like to thank those people that put up the fight so young people like me don't have to," said Knight. "Now it's our job to maintain a level of understanding that all military members are equals." To further spread knowledge of the LGBT community, the committee plans to host a bash next year to bring everyone together and educate. "I want to pass along the message that who you love does not define who you are," said Merrick. "Who you love does not limit what you can do. Love is love; that should not affect how someone is perceived."