Active duty military march in San Diego Pride ParadeOnline Only, Top Highlights Sunday, July 17th, 2011
San Diego Pride grabbed national headlines Saturday as more than 200 active duty and veteran military service members marched for the first time in the annual parade.
The military contingent, which marched after the traditional opening motorcycles groups, has been covered on CNN, National Public Radio (NPR), Fox and CBS, and stories provided by the national news services Reuters and The Associated Press (AP) have been reprinted by hundreds of media outlets across the U.S. and Canada. Local journalist Rex Wockner posted a video on YouTube showing 2:30 minutes of the march.
“This is a dream come true,” retired Marine Capt. Kristen Kavanaugh told CNN. “It’s the beginning of something where we can be proud about who we are and about the job that we’re doing to help this nation.”
“This is one of the proudest days in my life. It’s time for it (the policy) to be gone,” National Guard member Nichole Herrera told NPR. “I’m a soldier no matter what, regardless of my sexual orientation.”
San Diego Pride says this is the first time in its history, and believed to be in the history of Pride anywhere, a contingent of active duty service members and veterans.
“We are excited to support our troops, and we commend the brave service members taking part in the parade, regardless of their sexual orientation,” said Dwayne Crenshaw, executive director of San Diego Pride. “This is believed to be the first active duty military contingent marching in a Pride parade anywhere in the country.”
While a lot of the national stories tied the march into the recent events regarding Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) – the ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military – the organizer of San Diego’s march says the motives were not political, but rather to show support and honor U.S. soldiers.
“It has always disturbed me that enlisted military don’t march in a Pride parade. There is an immediate assumption that if you march, you’re gay. This has meant that we can’t even honor straight service members,” said veteran Navy Operations Specialist Sean Sala, the organizer of this year’s event. “For years, other public servants like police and firefighters have been honored in the Pride Parade. It is time for our troops to receive the same support.”
After Pride announced the military group’s participation, and after local media picked up the story (including the San Diego LGBT Weekly), interest spread across the country. Sala said response was amazing and that he received “many e-mails from service members and (had) conversations with veterans who tell me that they never expected to see this in a Pride parade in their lifetime, and they think this is pretty amazing,” Sala said before the parade. “It’s a huge reference that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has caused so much pain and such a stereotype, and it’s finally time that America is moving on. It’s a sign that the social norm in America is moving toward more acceptance of the LGBT community.”
With DADT still being debated, the marchers following all appropriate military protocols, Sala said. For example, they did not march in formation and did not wear any uniforms. Instead, the service members wore T-shirts representing their respective branch.
Marine Corporal Will Rodriguez-Kennedy told Reuters that he hopes they can mark in “dress blues” in the future. “One of my friends here has been back from Afghanistan for three days, and when he heard about the parade he said he served in uniform and he should be able to march in uniform,” Rodriguez-Kennedy said.
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