Wow, what a year! 2015 in Review

Wow, what a year! 2015 in Review

Dear AMPA member, Wow, what a year! It’s crazy to think how far we’ve come in just 12 months. But here we are getting ready to celebrate a new year, and I’m so proud of what our all volunteer team at AMPA has accomplished together over the last year. It’s truly almost unbelievable when you look back. Whether it was fighting to make sure our LGBT veterans and their families receive the benefits they’ve earned; filing a marriage equality brief with the Supreme Court of the United States and other courts on behalf of our modern military spouses (which led to a historic victory of nationwide marriage equality); holding state national guards accountable in recognizing same-sex military spouses; or pushing for policy changes to allow our transgender troops to serve openly and honestly; AMPA was there at the frontlines advocating on behalf of our LGBT military spouses and their families. But it didn’t end there. While the repeal of DADT allowed gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members to finally serve openly, it did not implement a non-discrimination policy ensuring they were not unfairly discriminated against. AMPA led the charge for this to change, and we finally claimed victory this year when the Pentagon added sexual orientation as a protected class to the military equal opportunity program. Seeing first hand the harm that the military’s transgender ban continues to inflict on transgender service members and their families, AMPA released an unprecedented new report in partnership with the Transgender American Veterans Association. This first of its kind report focused on the impact the outdated transgender military regulations have on the entire family and included personal stories from transgender service members and their families. And we hopefully will finally see...
The Loss of One of Our Own

The Loss of One of Our Own

Yesterday, started out like any other day. I took a break around noon and decided to take a look at Facebook. The first thing that popped up in my newsfeed was a post by Jamie Lee Henry, the highest ranking transgender service member currently serving in the U.S. Army. It hit me like a ton of bricks. The post was about the suicide of her friend and fellow transwoman, Jess Shipps. Jess was an Air Force veteran who had proudly served our country and went on to advocate for other transgender service members. As I read the post, I couldn’t help but think about an outing my family had just a few days prior with another military family in AMPA. We laughed, joked, and shared stories of our eventful lives as military families. Towards the end, the conversation took a more serious turn when the service member shared his feelings of identifying as transgender… feelings of being trapped in the wrong the body, yet serving his country for almost two decades… feelings of wanting to continue to serve his country, but openly, authentically, and honestly as who he is. The anguish in his eyes was heartbreaking. I left with a renewed sense of awareness and respect for our transgender service members. I also left with a renewed sense that we, as a community, must do more for the transgender military community. As friends and family mourn the tragic loss of Jess, we must stop and reflect on how we can help prevent another veteran from taking his or her own life. We must also walk hand in hand with our transgender community...
To the Members, Allies, and Supporters of the American Military Partner Association

To the Members, Allies, and Supporters of the American Military Partner Association

In 2010, I messaged Stephen Peters and what was then known as the Campaign for Military Partners.  For 13 years, I felt like I was the only same-sex military partner; each of us existed in our own solitary, hidden double lives as “sisters,” “cousins,” or “roommates.” That message changed everything. In just a few short years, our military has seen an inordinate amount of significant changes. From the fall of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in September 2011, to the partial dissolving of the Defense of Marriage Act, the implementation of same-sex spousal benefits, and full spousal recognition in 2012. These historical events have impacted our lives tremendously. We are no longer standing behind the crowd as we watch our service member pin on their next rank. We are no longer waiting in our car, outside of an installation, as our spouse returns from a twelve month deployment. We no longer worry who will be notified if our spouse is fatally wounded; we are finally the legally recognized husbands and wives of the greatest Americans. LGBT military spouses now have a seat at the table, a table comprised of all military spouses who work toward the same mission: supporting our service members as the home base. These military families, gay or straight, have rallied behind AMPA’s mission as well: equality. Although these past four years have seen unimaginable change, we must continue AMPA’s mission. Unlike our straight counterparts, our LGBT families are still often separated due to outdated Status of Forces Agreements that still need to be updated by the United States and host nations. Military chaplains continue to deny services to...
Secretary Panetta, We Need Your Help Before You Leave

Secretary Panetta, We Need Your Help Before You Leave

23 January 2013 The Honorable Leon Panetta Secretary of Defense 1000 Defense Pentagon Washington, DC 20301-1000 Dear Mr. Secretary, We at the American Military Partner Association are pleased to see that you have taken action to lift the ban on women in combat military occupational specialties. By taking such action, you have shown that no barriers should be in place based upon a service member’s gender, as long as they are willing and capable of serving our great nation. However, this leadership decision only highlights a problem our military families are facing. Because of out-dated Defense Department regulations, our gay and lesbian military families are facing severe hardships in serving our nation.  As related to your recent decision, the same-sex spouses and domestic partners of the female service members who will soon be able to serve in any role of the military are still denied access to the same benefits and support services as other military spouses. Additionally, private organizations that operate on military installations, as most notably displayed with my personal denial of full membership to the Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses at Fort Bragg, NC, are still being permitted to discriminate against same-sex spouses, using a lack of a military identification card to do so. While we understand that the Defense of Marriage Act currently prohibits some benefits from being extended, as was pointed out to you back in August of 2011 by our friends at the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, there are numerous benefits and support services that can be extended to same-sex military spouses right now, most notably a military identification card. Within the confines...

Denied Membership: An Open Letter to the President of the Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses

Madam President, Earlier this month, I was delighted to find that there is an Officers’ Spouse Club (OSC) on the Ft. Bragg base. My wife and I have been together for fifteen years as partners, and with the recent repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” are finally legally married. I emailed a listed contact for the group and eagerly waited to hear back. When I did, I was incredibly disappointed to be told I “do not qualify.” I respectfully ask that you reconsider my request to join the Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses. Although I have only been a legal spouse since November 10th, I have been in a committed relationship with my spouse since 1997. I have been at every promotion ceremony from First Lieutenant through Lieutenant Colonel. I watched with pride when she took her guideon and began company command, and I was the shoulder she cried on when she had to give it up. I have endured deployments and several TDYs, and I’ll continue to comfort our son and newborn daughter as they watch her leave on the next. When I decided to dedicate myself to my spouse, I knew all too well I was dedicating myself to the Army as well. My record of service to the military community would be an outstanding addition to your group. I began volunteering to assist military families. As an educator, I would often tutor “Army Brats” in reading. I briefed inbound families on the different school districts, assisting in housing location decisions. I have worked with local Humane Societies to help deployed Soldiers find temporary homes for their...