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U.S. military’s first openly gay general speaks at Fort Drum

Updated: Jun. 18, 2019 at 2:29 PM EDT
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FORT DRUM, N.Y. (WWNY) - Dozens of people from the Fort Drum community gathered at the Commons Tuesday to celebrate LGBT Pride Month.

Pride Month is celebrated every June in honor of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in New York City. It was a major milestone for LGBTQ civil rights. 2019 marks the 50th aniversary of the riots.

“Part of the 50th anniversary is about being able to share awareness across the board with everybody,” said Sergeant First Class Lyle Snavely, 10th Mountain Division Sustainment Brigade equal opportunity advisor.

This is the third year that Fort Drum has held an LGBT Pride Month observance.

Major General Tammy Smith works at the Pentagon and traveled to Fort Drum to be this year’s guest speaker. Smith was the first openly gay general in the U.S. military.

She spoke about her struggles before the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t tell policy was repealed.

“I just lived a compartmentalized life. I literally had my work life and my personal life and the stress of keeping those two lives separate took a larger toll on me than I actually ever imagined until the day came that I no longer had to live like that,” she said.

Smith says that she is proud and grateful of the Army’s approach to integration after the policy came to an end in 2011.

"They did exactly what I would have expected an institution like the Army to do. They followed their core values and they treated with everyone with dignity and respect,” said Smith.

Fort Drum’s observance marks the unofficial start to several days of Pride Month celebrations in the Watertown area, including a flag raising ceremony Saturday outside Watertown City Hall.

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