AUSTIN, Texas – Many people – Soldiers and civilians alike – consider being part of the Army to be a significant aspect of their identity.
Individuals within the Army Family are accustomed to supporting one another at and outside of work and share a unique sense of community not often found outside the military.
As part of its Pride Month observance, Army Futures Command (AFC) invited one of its staff members, Alex Vermooten, to speak about how several values held by the Army community – including integrity and personal courage – overlap with those of the LGBTQ community.
“We rely on each other in a way that only people who have been in these spaces understand,” Vermooten said.
“We inherently understand the concept of ‘found families,’ in that family is not always who you’re born to, but who you are bound to in common values and experiences,” they elaborated. “We talk about our families, our joys, our struggles, our pain. We look to each other for solace and support during hardship, and we celebrate any victory with one another, no matter how small.”
The presentation, which took place at command headquarters in Austin and was livestreamed to staff around the country, was designed to deepen understanding of the LGBTQ community and some of the challenges its members can face, particularly when articulating facets of their identity and navigating settings that are not always inclusive.
“We’re still on our way to understanding that different doesn’t have to mean better or worse; different can just be different,” Vermooten said.
The event also encouraged staff to consider the inherent diversity of human identity as the foundation of understanding to inform their interactions with others.
Vermooten cautioned against allowing a desire to fully understand someone’s identity surpass a responsibility to be respectful to one another.
“Confusion and acceptance are not mutually exclusive,” Vermooten said. “We can hold space for both in our efforts to treat one another with dignity and respect.”
They also detailed their own experiences as a queer person new to working for the Army, describing how appreciative they were to be welcomed and supported by Army teammates.
“The people here – these teammates, many of y’all in this room – are my favorite things about AFC,” Vermooten said.
Leah Lucio, a staff action control officer at AFC headquarters who served as the event’s master of ceremonies, clarified that efforts to recognize the LGBTQ community’s contributions to the Army extend well beyond the month of June.
“At the Army, we welcome the opportunity, during this month and throughout the year, to recognize and applaud the positive roles that the LGBTQ community has played in our military’s history. We also acknowledge the importance of celebrating the LGBTQ achievements and contributions within the Department of Defense,” Lucio said.
“We look forward to continuing and growing this tradition as our Army and military grows and evolves to become more inclusive and supportive of its members,” she said.