SAN DIEGO — To the cheers of a crowd estimated at over 200,000 spectators — many shouting “Thank you for your service” — for the first time in history on Saturday, members of the United States Armed Forces marched in full uniform in a gay pride parade.
Led by a Marine sergeant wearing her dress blue uniform and bearing the American flag, dozens of soldiers, sailors, and Marines marched alongside an Army truck decorated with a “Freedom to Serve” banner and a rainbow flag in the San Diego Pride Parade, joined by dozens more military personnel wearing T-shirts designating their branch of service.
The military contingent participating in today’s event, dubbed “America’s Pride,” included active duty members and veterans representing the Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force and Coast Guard. The flag bearer, Marine Sgt. Bris Holland, 30, has done two tours in Iraq. Behind her was her 7-year-old son, Kannon, and her partner, Jaxs Jacquez, 30.
“This is history,” said U.S. Navy Petty Officer Erica Tello. “Being able to wear our uniforms says that we really are equal, at last.”
Article continues belowCmdr. Kent Blade, who will retire this fall after 26 years in the Navy, said being able to march in uniform was a perfect culmination of his career. The 47-year-old said that since last year’s repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, he has received unconditional support from his fellow officers.
“We’ve all been able to talk more freely about our lives. Nobody’s leading a second life,” Blade said. “And now that I can march freely in uniform, I think it’s a great display for the Navy.”
Sean Sala, 27, who left the Navy last year but helped organize the military group, told the San Diego Union-Tribune that the significance of this year’s active-duty uniformed participants was bolstered by government approval for the first time.
After several days of indecision at lower levels, a deputy assistant secretary of Defense on Thursday authorized military personnel to wear their uniforms in the San Diego parade, provided they did nothing to bring “discredit” to the service or appear to be making a political statement.
Many of those marching have been deployed to combat zones, and several indicated they have partners who are deployed in Afghanistan, on ships or elsewhere.