DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Delaware –
The month dedicated to LGBTQ Pride has come to a close, but for members of Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations, the principles of diversity and inclusion live on year-round.
AFMAO Airmen come from all walks of life, and several are proud members of the LGBTQ community. Many members of the community who serve did so under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which prohibited service members from openly identifying as LGBTQ from February 1994 to September 2011.
Brent Blankenship, a controller in AFMAO’s Command, Control and Communication section, spent most of his time in uniform under DADT. Now serving as a civilian, Blankenship recognizes the progress the Air Force has made toward equality.
“Change takes time, perseverance, respect and support from leaders within communities, and I have seen that within the military toward LGBTQ members,” he said.
One of those leaders is assigned to AFMAO. Lt. Col. Kris Rennie, interim commander of AFMAO, came out to her leadership shortly after the repeal of DADT. During that period, Rennie identified her now-wife Lindsay as her roommate – a tactic many members of the community resorted to during that time. Though the two had been together for three years by the time “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed, it took time for Rennie to serve openly as a gay Airman.
“There was still that initial fear after ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,’” Rennie said. “I didn’t necessarily want to stand out.”
Kris and Lindsay Rennie married in 2015. During her tenure as the 4th Force Support Squadron commander at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Rennie noted her Airmen accepted both her and her wife with open arms.
“I’d come check on my Airmen in the [Military Personnel Flight] and the first question they’d ask me is, “When is Lindsay coming by? We haven’t seen her in a while!’” Rennie said with a laugh. She noted that having her wife alongside her allowed her to lead the squadron more authentically.
Though the month of June is dedicated to celebrating the progress Americans have made toward acceptance and equality, the principles expressed during LGBTQ Pride Month can and should be practiced year-round.
“[It] really comes down to respecting one another for who they are, what they do, and how each of us choose to live our lives,” Blankenship said.
Rennie notes that the AFMAO principles of “Dignity, Honor and Respect” apply to all service members, regardless of sexual orientation.
“We treat the fallen with dignity, honor and respect and we can treat each other with that as well.”