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Proud of who I am, proud to serve

  • Published
  • By Maj. Maria-Rocio Vazquez
  • 349th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE. Calif. – My life has changed significantly both in the military and as a civilian since the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” which was the military’s ban on gays and lesbians serving openly. 

I commissioned into the U.S. Air Force in September 2009 and as I reflect back on the repeal of DADT on Sept. 20, 2011, I cannot help but feel a sense of sadness about all of the images that were published of people coming back from deployments. Prior to the repeal, there were virtually no images to celebrate the coming home of gay or lesbian service members. And if there were photographs, those images were sheltered and not openly celebrated.

Fast forward to after the repeal, and now we can celebrate the coming home of our loved ones with no fear of being photographed or having people witness running into the arms of our partner or significant other. Today, I no longer have to hide my love and my commitment. Now, I can show the world who has been my rock, my support, my mentor and my partner, and one of the reasons I fight for my country.  As a combat veteran, I will forever cherish the memory of my spouse sending me off to my deployment to Afghanistan in 2015. These are priceless moments that helped solidify my commitment and feelings of being valued for my leadership abilities and most importantly, accepted as a whole Airman willing to bring everything to the fight.

As a U.S. citizen, I further feel validated and fully protected by the Constitution without exceptions. Now, I no longer feel less than a full citizen when it comes to my legal rights. Since the legalization of same-sex marriage, I married my spouse in 2014; this was a powerful, historic and emotional moment for not only me, but for many around the nation. Although there are still opposing views regarding same-sex marriage, I am grateful to finally have the federal benefits, protection and responsibilities of married couples and U.S. citizens that I unwaveringly fight for to preserve the liberty and equality of my country.

I love my country and will always be committed to serve no matter what the conditions. Nevertheless, the repeal of DADT bolstered my opportunities and opened several doors for me to continue to lead with merit in the Air Force.