By Derek Gean (Fort Wood Community Editor)June 23, 2016
Diversity and strong leadership were the primary areas of focus June 21 as community members gathered to celebrate Pride Month.
The Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month Observance and Luncheon, themed "Celebration," brought hundreds to Pershing Community Center to celebrate equality.
Serving as the second celebration at Fort Leonard Wood since the Department of Defense ended the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, the event included music from the 399th Army Band and a slide show celebrating historic moments throughout the advancement of LGBT rights.
Maj. Gen. Kent Savre, MSCoE and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general and event host, noted that all of the branches of the military are made up of citizens who represent the diverse demographics of America.
"Regardless of how we were raised, as military members, we are in the business of supporting and defending all of our constitutional freedoms and representing our profession and our service values -- values that speak to treating every person with dignity and respect," Savre said. He then introduced the day's guest speaker, Command Sgt. Maj. Alma Zeladaparedes, Noncommissioned Officers Academy commandant.
Zeladaparedes encouraged the audience to embrace the theme and celebrate by snapping instead of clapping.
"This is pride celebration. We've got to bring the celebration to it. We've got to snap," Zeladaparedes said with a smile.
"This month is really an opportunity to celebrate and recognize the importance of diversity within our formation and values that make the Army so strong," she continued.
She said the values that make the Army strong include integrity, courage, dedication, dignity and respect.
"For a time, service members in the LGBT community had to choose between the military or being and to be true to themselves -- we finally realize this chapter in our nation's history is over," she said.
Throughout the history of the Army, leaders have been charged with developing cohesive units from groups of people with vastly diverse backgrounds, to fight and win in a complex security environment, she said.
"Only by embracing our Army Values and treating each other with dignity and respect can you mold these diverse individuals into ready, resilient capable teams awaiting our nations call," she said.
She expanded on several of the qualities of leadership, including; adaptability, collaboration, commitment, competence, dependability and discipline. She said it's not a person's background that makes them a strong leader but the qualities they embrace.
"Look around us. We are a Team of Teams, a band of brothers and sisters, because of the love we have for our nation and the love we have towards one another," Zeladaparedes said. "When the shooting starts and the battle begins and lives are at stake, a Soldiers race, religion and orientation do not matter. All that matters are the defining qualities of a leader and the qualities of their team members," she said.