Tammy Smith, America’s First Openly Gay General
Former Army Colonel Tammy Smith, on August 10, 2012, was promoted to Brigadier General. This is a milestone appointment as this promotion makes her the first general officer to come out while serving. Smith, 49, received her stars from her wife Tracy Hepner in a private ceremony at the Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. Her new assignation is as Deputy Chief in the Army Reserve Office of the Chief in Washington, D.C.
Before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
Most high-ranking members of the military have waited until they were discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell” or retired to come out. Sue Fulton, a 1980 West Point graduate and member of OutServe Board of Directors, concurs “for years, gay and lesbian generals and admirals were forced to hide their families in order to protect their careers.”
It was just last year before “don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed that Smith, anonymously, told Leo Shane III, reporter from Stars and Stripes, last summer that she wasn’t planning on coming out to her colleagues. Smith, who spent much of 2011 serving in Afghanistan, was looking forward to the relief of knowing that her career wouldn’t be threatened if she was found out,” confirms Shane.
A Role Model For All Senior Enlisted Troops and Officers – Sarvis
Army Veteran and SLDN (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network) Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis states that “Brigadier General Smith made history today – not only as an exemplary service member, but as a proud lesbian acknowledging the tremendous sacrifice her family makes in order for her to serve and advance.”
Says Fulton: “It is a great day for our military and for our nation when this courageous leader is finally able to recognize her wife, (co-founder of the Partners and Families Coalition concerned with military benefits and programs) for her support and sacrifice in the same way that all military families should be recognized for their service to our country.”
What Smith Has To Say
Smith told the newspaper that “all those facts (about her being the first lesbian Brigadier General to come out while serving) are irrelevant. I don’t think I need to be focused on that. What is relevant is upholding Army values and the responsibility this carries.”
Brigadier General Smith set a long-overdue precedent this week. Will senior enlisted and officers follow her lead and come forward with their spouses and loved ones?