Victory sees no difference! Rainbow Center visits 62d AW

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kylee Tyus
  • 62d Airlift Wing Public Affairs

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Dozens of Team McChord Airmen, family members and friends attended a Rainbow Color Run 5K and an educational discussion panel to celebrate and recognize diversity within the armed forces and beyond at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, June 28, 2023. The discussion panel, hosted by Charlie Best, education manager with the Rainbow Center in Tacoma, Wash., included members of the McChord community who shared their stories and answered educational questions that Team McChord Airmen, family members and friends had about the LGBTQ two-spirited and allied+ community.

Prior to the discussion, Best held an educational presentation for the audience gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation how these things relate and differ. The presentation was followed by a panel of former and current Team McChord service members who answered the audiences questions and shared their stories about what it’s like to be a part of the LGBTQ2SA+ community, as well as in the armed forces.

The Rainbow Center is an organization based in Tacoma, Wash., whose main mission is to expand resources through education, advocacy, and celebration as well as creating a safe space for the LGBTQ2SA+ community. The center encourages Airmen to be the best that they can be by supporting the Air Force’s mission to strengthen unity among them as a more diverse, inclusive force, and strengthening their ability to provide airpower anytime, anywhere.

“It’s really nice to see the direction that the government agency is going. There’s a lot of division in our country right now, but there doesn’t have to be if we start looking at each other as induvials, and as humans,” said Best. “We have so much more in common than we have different and it’s encouraging to see these celebrations happening because a step forward is a step forward, and I want to continue to see these steps happen.”

The center has served as safe space for the LGBTQ2SA+ community since 1997 as an expanded resource for the community and allies by way of education, advocacy and celebration. The center’s education program offers high-quality workshops and training opportunities for individuals, businesses or groups that want to know more about how to engage, support, serve and increase their awareness and understanding of the community.

During the discussion panel, the Team McChord community shared their struggles as well as all of the support that they’ve gotten from their leadership throughout their perspective military careers. For example, how leadership supported them in situations where they received hate based on their identity or sexual preference, or in situations where their fellow Wingman stood by their side in places where they felt unsafe.

“We have so many individual stories amongst the thousands of team members in the 62d Airlift Wing, 627th Air Base Group and our broader JBLM team,” said Royal Canadian Air Force Maj. Evan Heath, maintenance operations officer with the 62d Maintenance Squadron, and one of the planners for the pride events held in June. “This discussion panel provided the opportunity for some LGBTQ2SA+ team members to share aspects of their experiences within the Air Force and Department of Defense. From some we heard of the challenges faced in a ‘Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell’ era; from others how they boldly introduced themselves to the Air Force on day one at basic military training and haven’t backed down on who they are since, and how the support of their team within the DOD gave them the confidence to become who they wanted to be.”

After the discussion panel, multiple resource tables were available providing information about financial relief options available to the community, information about available programs that support minority veterans and information on events that serve as safe places for the LGBTQ2A+ community and the veterans within that community.

Pride events like the run and panel that were held in June are imperative in further solidifying the Air Force’s mission to support a more diverse, and inclusive force that will increase the Air Force’s lethality against enemies.

“While June may be the designated month for the special observance of LGBTQ2SA+ Pride, know that this community exists 24/7/365 just as do all the other ‘months’,” said Heath. “Like all my colleagues in our LGBTQ2SA+ community, I’m dedicated to our mission. Victory sees no difference.”