It was before repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. In 2011, the we were strangers to each other. As the Department of Defense gathered information to consider repeal, we were given the opportunity to speak with DoD General Counsel Jeh Johnson, General Carter Ham, and the Pentagon Comprehensive Review Working Group to share our stories. It was a bold and empowering experience, for both us and our Pentagon hosts.
And a dream was born…. that we will serve as a voice and support for LGBT military partners and families. We saw the gaping void between our silent families. We lived isolated lives, unknown to our LGBT communities because we were military families, and unknown to the military community because we were LGBT families. We formed Military Partners and Families Coalition in 2011 to begin filling that void, and to create a safe space to support and educate one another, find resources for LGBT military partners, and serves as an advocate for partners and families who stand by their service members. Welcome to our growing families. We invite you to join us firstname.lastname@example.org
Ariana is the President of Military Partners and Families Coalition (MPFC). Outside of her role as the MPFC President, Ariana works full-time as the Educational Outreach Coordinator at the University of Michigan Spectrum Center, the nation’s oldest LGBTQ center on a college campus, in Ann Arbor, MI. She is also vice-president and co-founder of Military Spouses of Michigan (MSoM). She brings her passion for social justice education to the organization as well as her experience with public speaking and working with people from a diversity of communities. She and her partner, a 1LT in the Michigan Army National Guard, live in Michigan.
Tracey Hepner-Smith is the wife of Army Brigadier General Tammy Smith and is a member of the Army Reserve senior spouse team. Ms. Hepner-Smith was invited to sit with First Lady Michelle Obama at the 2013 State of the Union Address in recognition of her tireless work in support of LGBT military families. She is also founder of Rainbow Ribbon and the Rainbow Ribbon Project, organizations dedicated to raising visibility of LGBT military families prior to the repeal of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell (DADT). That involvement led her to testify to the Pentagon’s Comprehensive Working Group on behalf of LGBT military families, informing the study that eventually led to the repeal of DADT. Tracey recently retired from the Department of Homeland Security where she served as a Master Behavior Detection Officer. In 2013 Secretary of Homeland Defense Janet Napolitano recognized Hepner for her contribution to an inclusive workplace culture, awarding her the Department of Homeland Security DHS Pride 2013 Award for Service. Smith and Hepner were married in Washington, DC, in March 2012.
Samuel is the spouse of an active duty service member stationed at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Co-founder of MPFC.. He has over 15 years of non-profit experience in seeking funding, building community outreach projects, and developing programs. Dr. Toba also served as an executive board member to Immigration Equality, a national organization fighting for equality under U.S. immigration law for LGBT and HIV positive individuals.
Deborah is an Army spouse stationed at Ft. Bragg, NC. A previous resident of New Jersey where she completed her bachelor’s degree in social work and continues to build and maintain her relationships with the social work community as well as the counseling community. Her experience and knowledge in social work-related issues allows her to provide a unique perspective in her work with MPFC. She was instrumental in developing strong coalition bonds with members of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), Agape Empowerment Ministries in GA and You Are Strong! Center on Veterans Health and Human Services in Charleston SC, where she holds the post of Executive Member of You Are Strong! Planning Committee. Deborah was also a Family Readiness Group (FRG) Leader for Bravo Unit by the company commander of Ft. Stewart.