June, a month usually associated with rising temperatures, melting ice cream, tangy barbeque sauce, and starry nights – represents more than the onset of summer for some Soldiers in the 4th Infantry Division. June is also Pride Month - A month dedicated to recognizing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) individuals, and their impact throughout history. For the 4th Infantry Division, it’s about celebrating LGBTQ+ Soldiers and honoring their commitment to serve their country.
Celebrating Pride can look different for every Soldier. 1st Lt. Patrick Oathout, an Alpha Company platoon leader with 1st Battalion, 9 Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, supporting the 4th Infantry Division, spoke about what Pride month looks like to him, especially while deployed to Poland.
“I celebrate Pride month through open dialogue on LGBTQ+ topics,” Oathout said, adding that he supports LGBTQ+ organizations and virtually participates in Pride events.
Oathout, who identifies as gay, enlisted in the Army in April 2021. Since joining the Army, the experience he received has been very welcoming.
“You say some type of word or phrase that reveals to them, you are gay and people have responded positively to it overall,” Oathout shared. “From my soldiers to my seniors, and my colleagues as well. My peers have been very supportive as well.”
Oathout’s positive experience, and the support and acceptance of LGBTQ+ Service Members within the ranks of the U.S. Armed Forces, were hard-won for those who fought for the freedom to serve their country.
U.S. military members who were thought to be homosexual or engaged in homosexual acts in the 1930s were, at the time, subjected to possible court-martial, imprisonment, or discharged. Throughout the years following World War II, there were Department of Defense policies that barred any individuals who identified as gay from joining the armed forces.
In 1993 the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy was put in place, prohibiting discrimination or harassment against closeted homosexual or bisexual Service Members while still barring any openly qualified gay, bisexual, or lesbian personnel from serving in the military.
Oathout, who worked for an organization with a DADT policy while still in high school, talked about his experience. He said it was a daily challenge to be present at work.
“I could not be open about myself,” said Oathout. “Anytime I got a question about my personal life, it felt like I was doing mental gymnastics.”
The U.S. Senate repealed the DADT policy on December 18, 2010.
According to Reuters, an estimated 13,000 military members were discharged over the 17 years DADT was in effect.
“I am glad we have moved beyond it,” Oathout said of DADT policies. “In order for Soldiers to fully serve, they need to be their true authentic selves at work.”
On June 1, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, released a statement about Pride month, referencing inclusivity in the military.
“This often painful history has made something clear: Who you love and how you identify has nothing to do with how bravely you can fight for your country. When we speak up for the rights of all Americans, when we encourage all qualified Americans to stand a post, we strengthen both our democracy and our national security. The U.S. military is the greatest fighting force in history, and we intend to keep it that way.”
Oathout is grateful for the military’s stance on LGBTQ+ rights and has some advice for any soldier who identifies as such thinking about joining the military.
“Be yourself,” said Oathout. “When you see people pursuing any type of discrimination, correct it because now you have the Army behind you.”