By Julia LeDoux, Pentagram Staff WriterJune 16, 2016
The Department of Defense recognizes June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual Pride Month, but Spc. Daniel Yeadon, an LGBT Soldier who serves as a military police officer at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, wants to be defined as being much more than his sexual orientation.
"I am an American Soldier," Yeadon said. "It doesn't matter what race, color, sexual preference or religion I am. At the end of the day, I am putting on a uniform, and I swore to do a job that I'm never going to let anything keep me from doing."
Yeadon spoke with the Pentagram June 13, the day after a gunman who pledged allegiance to the Islamic terrorist group ISIS gunned down 49 people and wounded more than 100 at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
"It hit hard and it hit home," he said of the attack. "It's taken so long for LGBT members to get to where they're at now and it happened during Pride weekend. You can't let the monsters of the world control you. They [the victims] were singled out for one attribute that I have in common with them. They are part of my family. I am still shell shocked."
Yeadon grew up in a small town in Missouri with a population of less than 2,000 and had little direct contact with the military when he enlisted in the Army in 2013.
"I grew up in an independent fundamental Baptist home, so already my parents weren't talking about the sexual orientation aspect of my life," he said.
Living the Army values, being true to self
Yeadon, 25, had long considered joining the service but was hesitant to do so until the repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, which prohibited gays and lesbians from serving in the military, in 2011.
He was upfront with recruiters about his sexual orientation and asked them how it might impact his military career. They advised him not to make an issue of it himself, but Yeadon worried that he would not be true to who he was if he hid his sexual identity.
"I don't feel like it [an individual's sexual orientation] needs to be talked about," he said. "But, at the same time, I'm not saying you should avoid talking about it. If you are 100 percent true to your own skin, people can tell on their own."
Yeadon said the Army values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage, demand that Soldiers be true to who they are.
"You can't have integrity without being true to yourself," he said. "You cannot maintain yourself without being true to yourself. Every single Army value ties back to being true to yourself. When you aren't true to yourself, you aren't giving 100 percent. If you're not giving 100 percent, you're not giving your all."
A Pride-ful designation
Yeadon said the DoD designation of June as LGBT Pride Month means a lot not only to him, but to all LGBT service members.
"It wakes up self-pride," Yeadon said. "It allows you to feel better about who you are, and not sad about being different. It's letting you feel recognition in a much larger way."
Defense Secretary Ash Carter wrote that the designation gives both the DoD and the nation an opportunity to salute the service and sacrifice of LGBT service members and civilian employees of the department.
"Throughout our history, brave LGBT Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen and Marines have served and fought for our nation," Carter noted. "Their readiness and willingness to serve has made our military stronger and our nation better."
"All who answer the call to service are doing the noblest thing they can do with their lives: To provide security for others while they dream their dreams, raise their children and live full lives," added Carter.
Yeadon said the designation also signals a shift in culture across all branches of the American armed forces.
"The military is changing," he said. "For the people who have hate, there isn't a place for them anymore. I never thought in my life that I would see this much change this rapidly, especially coming from small town Missouri."
Yeadon plans on making a career out of the Army while he pursues some long-cherished personal goals.
"I want to have the American dream family," said Yeadon. "I want to have that white picket fence; I want to have my partner; I want to have kids."