MPFC created the “Faces of Our Families” project in order to showcase and share our military families with each other and the greater community. From beneath the cloak of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” emerged so many beautiful families who existed the whole time, but couldn’t be truly recognized and celebrated as they should be. Now is the time to share our families’ pictures and stories so that we can associate real faces and lives with the continued fight for full recognition and equality for all military families.
We look forward to showcasing a new MPFC family each month! Interested in participating alongside our wonderful families, please send requests to Meg at email@example.com.
This Month’s Faces of Our Families
SPC Jesse Dennis and Zachary Dennis
SPC Jesse Dennis and Zachary Dennis met the day before memorial day 2014 in Atlanta, GA. They are active members of the American Veterans for Equal Rights and Outserve-SLDN, and are both very passionate about making impacts in what ever way possible. The couple was engaged June, 25 2015 outside of the Supreme Court building in Washington, DC and married on September 2, 2015 in Marietta, GA. The two have two lovely children, a dog named Achilles and a cat named Faust. Jesse has recently moved to active duty service, and the couple will be moving to Ft. Riley, Kansas. The two hope to continue their work of helping the LGBT community and changing hearts and minds.
Previous Month’s Faces of Our Families
MAJ Jamie Lee Henry, MC & Dr. Anna Gabrielian
MAJ Jamie Lee Henry, MC and Dr. Anna Gabrielian met in March 2015 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland and became engaged on June 26, 2015 within hours after the Supreme Court marriage equality decision. Anna was volunteering with the American Red Cross at WRB, when the two fell in love. Jamie’s son Peter was instrumental in defining their relationship while he was visiting the hospital for his birthday on May 13, 2015. He has helped them grow as a couple and has been an absolutely precious addition to their courtship.
The support of the Military Partners and Families Coalition through the Memorial Day wreath laying ceremony as well as other social events served to strengthen Anna and Jamie’s bond with one another and the LGBT military community. They are delighted to have found each other in a time of ever increasing LGBT equality in the military, and look forward to many more positive changes throughout their lifetime.
Major Vic Holmes (ret) USAF & Mark Phariss
Major Vic Holmes (ret) USAF and Mark Phariss are plaintiffs in the Texas same sex lawsuit that is now before the Supreme Court. Mark and Vic met in San Antonio in the spring of 1997 at a birthday party for a mutual friend. Mark was immediately smitten and asked Vic out several days later only to find out he was dating someone else. For the next several months, they hung out as friends. When Vic broke up with his then boyfriend, Mark immediately asked Vic out. They had their first date on August 9, 1997, at a fundraiser for the Human Rights Campaign. They have been together ever since, almost 18 years now, even though Vic was in the Air Force and they had to commute for 11 years. During the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” years, they spoke with each other daily but had to hide their relationship. They used multiple languages and even developed code words and phrases to say “I love you.” In December 2010, just as DADT was being repealed, Vic retired as a major from the Air Force after almost 23 years. After the Windsor decision, they sought and were turned down for a marriage license in their home state of Texas in October 2013. With that act, they became two of the four plaintiffs who successfully challenged Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage in federal court. Texas appealed and the 5th Circuit heard their case in January 2015. They attended the April Supreme Court hearings in Washington, D.C., and, confident of a favorable Supreme Court ruling, are currently planning their November wedding near their home in Plano, Texas.
Matt Elmore & 2nd Lt. Beau Downey, USAF
For Matt Elmore and Beau Downey, it was love at first song. Beau was watching his favorite musical with a friend in 2012 when he saw Matt perform. When he heard Matt sing, Beau turned to a friend and said, “I think I’m in love.” The two met a few days later for coffee and soon began dating. Last year, Beau, a missileer, left for Air Force training in California. They talked every day, but the distance was too much to handle so Matt joined Beau in California. The couple recently married in California and relocated to North Dakota when Beau was stationed at Minot Air Force Base. The couple is one of seven plaintiffs in a federal case filed in June 2014 challenging North Dakota’s ban on the freedom to marry.
Tom and Joseph Desamero, CDR, U.S. Navy
Tom writes: “I met my wonderful husband out of the blue one day. I had just left the Navy after serving for 11 years as a hospital corpsman so that I could pursue further education. Joseph and I met online and really hit it off right away. We began to talk about our common interests and military experiences and shortly after, he asked me out to dinner; the rest is history. We have been together for 4 years and just celebrated out first wedding anniversary last August. We both love to spend our time traveling, and watching movies together. I am currently attending the Montgomery County Community College in Rockville, MD working toward a degree in Nursing. Joseph, with 26 years of active duty and reserve service time, is currently serving as the Service Chief of the Cardio-Telemetry Ward at Walter-Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD.” Tom also serves as the Secretary of MPFC’s Board of Directors!
CPT Valerie Palacios & Erika Chavarria
Valerie and Erika were married October 11, 2014 on the rooftop of the Old Ebbitt Grill in Washington, DC. Coincidently, the date they chose was also National Coming out Day! Erika was born in Illinois and served in the Army from 2004-2009 as a Medical Logistics Specialist. She currently works for the U.S. Navy as a Contract Specialist in the DC area. Valerie is currently serving in the Army as a Public Affairs Officer, stationed at Fort Sam Houston, TX. Erika and Valerie have a three-year old Affenpinscher, named Chuleta (pork chop in Spanish), and they are in the process of purchasing their first home in San Antonio. The couple enjoys being outdoors, going to concerts, spending time with family and friends, and traveling.
LTjg Megan Willingham & LTjg Kelsey Atkinson, U.S. Navy Nurse Corps
Kelsey and Megan met while in ROTC and nursing school at Loyola University Chicago. They both graduated and commissioned in 2012 as Naval Nurse Corps officers and made the trip to their first duty station at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Bethesda together. In February 2014, the two married in Washington D.C. in a small ceremony. Megan and Kelsey feel so fortunate that they’ve been able to start their military careers in an out and open relationship surrounded by a wonderful military family and friends. The two look forward to their move this fall to Okinawa with their dog Bruce and cat Russell. Megan is also one of the newest members of Military Partners and Families Coaliton’s Board of Directors.
Tiffany and Bentley
My name is Bentley and I am a military spouse. My wife, Tiffany, is a Sergeant with the U.S. Army. She has been stationed in Kansas since 2010. We traveled to Iowa and got married June 24, 2013, right before her first deployment. Together, we have four children with one on the way! We travel all over showing the kiddos a happy and good life.
Erwynn and Will
The Umali-Behrens Family includes Will, Erwynn, Ashley (13), Cameron (13), Brandon (11), Collin (10) and their puppy Roxy (one and a half). Will is the Vice President of Operations for Robert Half International and has been with the company for 9 years. Erwynn is a Technical Sergeant in the United States Air Force and has been serving for 16 years of active duty service. Will and Erwynn met in 2006 in Berlin, New Jersey and became fast friends. Their friendship grew into a romantic courtship in 2009. It was at this time that they were faced with the reality of DADT and keeping their relationship a secret. During their courtship, they continued to face the many struggles that our LGBT service members had to face. With the repeal of DADT, they were then able to openly serve and support each other without putting their careers at risk. On June 23, 2011, Will and Erwynn became the first same-sex couple to have a wedding ceremony on a military installation. They exchanged their vows to each other and their children in front of friends, family and leadership at the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey chapel. Will and Erwynn strongly believe that their family should be a cohesive unit and teach their four children those values. They understand that the service member, military spouse and children cannot succeed without the help and support of each other.
Brynn and Janis
LCDR Brynn Tannehill is originally from Phoenix, Ariz. She graduated from the Naval Academy with a B.S. in computer science in 1997. She earned her Naval Aviator wings in 1999 and flew SH-60B helicopters and P-3C maritime patrol aircraft during three deployments between 2000 and 2004. She served as a campaign analyst while deployed overseas to 5th Fleet Headquarters in Bahrain from 2005 to 2006. In 2008 Brynn earned a M.S. in Operations Research from the Air Force Institute of Technology and transferred from active duty to the Naval Reserves. In 2008 Brynn began working as a senior defense research scientist in private industry. She left the drilling reserves and began transition in 2010. Since then she has written for OutServemagazine, The New Civil Rights Movement, Salon, Huffington Post, and theBilerico Project. She serves on the Boards of SPARTA, Equality Ohio, and PFLAG Dayton,
Brynn and Janis have been together since 2000. Janis is a graduate of Okanagan University and Wright State University in 2009. Janis is currently working on her M.S. in bioengineering from the University of Dayton. She volunteers as a troop leader with Girl Scouts of South Western Ohio, and as the treasurer of the PTO. They have three children together: Eleanore (11), Kyra (8), and Liam (4). Currently they reside in Xenia, Ohio.
Brynn remains in the Naval Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) as a Lieutenant Commander, working towards the day when the medical ban on transgender service is lifted and she can return to duty.
Josh and Steve
Josh and Steve met and fell in love one summer. It was a storybook romance until Steve found out he was being deployed to Iraq. Steve told Josh that if he waited for him to come home from war… he would be the one. During the deployment there were times when mortars would hit and it scared Josh in wondering if he would ever be notified if something happened to Steve. So they decided on the R&R half way through deployment to get married in the nation’s capital. They had their wedding at the grave of Leonard Matlovich in honor to him and other LGBT Servicemembers who have served in silence. When Leonard died there was no such thing as gay people serving in the military openly, or marriage equality. So the couple honored him with their wedding vows. Steve was the soldier who was booed at the GOP debate in 2011. Since then this couple have been an unstoppable force fighting for marriage equality. They challenged the DOD in a lawsuit, took 25 couples to Washington DC to be married at the Supreme Court, and to this day are fighting for marriage equality in Ohio, their home state. They are not only activists, husbands, but they are also best friends. They are talking about having children, but for right now, they have 3 pets, Spanky, Gizmo and Macho their puggle. They are a happy… PROUD military family. Their story was recently written as a book and can be found at: http://su7.co/gcaibY
Cherish and Sheena
Cherish joined the Army in 2010 and is currently stationed at Ft. Bragg. She has also been stationed at Ft. Drum, following Basic Training at Ft. Jackson and AIT at Ft. Lee. A highlight of her service was the last 7 months completing Honor Guard Duty in support and appreciation of fallen soldiers throughout NC. She loves what she does and is looking forward to re-enlisting again soon. Cherish is newly married, as of April 2014, to Sheena who has her degree in human services and works with women who suffer from mental and physical disabilities. Together, the couple enjoys traveling, shopping, spending time with their families, and planning for their future.
Terri and Tamara
Seven years ago, an Army ROTC Assistant Professor of Military Science from Purdue University met a sweet natured medical billing specialist in Lafayette, Indiana. Two deployments, two promotions, one PCS, and two house moves later — Terri and Tamara Morris- Taylor were married July 4, 2013 on the steps of the Supreme Court. Through it all they have walked a journey that they would not trade for anything. They love to visit the sights of D.C., visit their families in Indiana and Georgia, and hug their 14 year old terrier mix, Jagger. Tamara is a COL in the Active Guard Reserve and serves at Fort Belvoir, VA.
Heather, Jacob & Adrianna
Adrianna, Heather, and Jacob are an active duty Air Force family stationed at Eglin AFB, FL. In the past year they have been so excited to enjoy the fruits of the labor of the MPFC family and coalition partners, who have worked so hard and improved their situation as a family so much over the past several years. Their highlights as a newly recognized military family in the past year have included – signing up Heather and Jacob as DEERS dependents, first commissary shopping trip with the dependent ID card, first doctor’s appointment on base for Jacob (preschool checkup), and tour of the CDC on base. Favorite activities for the family include playgrounds, playing at the beach, crafts, playing make believe, and reading stories together. Their seven year old siberian husky Hanna provides patient and gentle companionship, and accompanies them wherever she is allowed.
Elizabeth, Marie & Betsy
Elizabeth has been actively serving in the CT Army National Guard for the past 23 years, and proudly holds the rank of Sergeant First Class. She is a combat veteran, having been deployed overseas for during OEF and OIF. She strongly believes in the mission of the military and her unwavering pride in her service is shared with everyone she knows. She believes strongly in developing the leadership potential of the enlisted who serve with her. She currently is the National Eagle ASG Food Service representative and a part time member of the CLRT-X team providing support while inspecting units throughout the country. Her busy schedule also includes a myriad of local community involvement activities, including serving as the PTO president for the past 2 years. She is also very active in local politics and also in volunteering with many local community events. One of her passions is helping to develop a positive community town-wide culture. She has been married to her wife, Marie, for the past 8 years. The Post- DADT era has immeasurable impacted this family, who celebrated with happiness as the discriminatory legislation was lifted from their lives and the lives of so many of their friends in the military. Marie holds a doctorate in education and is a life-long special educator. Their daughter, Betsy is a 3rd grader, a competitive dancer and is working towards her black belt in karate. The family loves to spend their off hours playing board games, sharing family dinners, and playing with the family’s 3 rescued pets.
Tracey & Tammy
There is the family that you are born into and there is the family you create along the way. Tammy and I are very fortunate to be part of such an amazing extended military family. We are an Army Reserve family– serving on active duty in the National Capital region and just moved on post at Fort Belvoir VA.
This picture was taken in front of the Jefferson Memorial on March 31st 2012, just after we were legally married by an Army Chaplain. We were surrounded by the love and support of family and friends. Tammy’s smile as we walked under the saber arch was unforgettable. With all things, we lead with our military identity. We are a military family that happens to be gay, and are very proud to be connected with the extended military family we have created along the way.
Chris, Sophia & Ryan
Army Captain Chris Armijo has spent 15 years in the Army and is currently assigned to the San Mateo Medical Recruiting Station in San Mateo, CA. CPT Armijo is, most importantly, the single father of two precious twin toddler daughters, Sophia and Ryan Armijo. As a family, they spend time volunteering with Operation Care and Comfort, Military Partners and Families Coalition, and the American Military Partners Association. When not volunteering as a family, CPT Armijo serves on the Board of Directors for Our Family Coalition and Endeavor Foundation for the Arts (EFFTA), and previously served on the Board of Health Education for Latino People (H.E.L.P). The Armijo family is relocating to Fort Sam Houston in May 2014.
Linda & Albane
Linda and Albane met in Arlington, Virginia and were married in 2012. The ceremony was performed by an Army Chaplain with friends and family from across the US and Paris at the George Mason Memorial in Washington DC. The symbolism was ideal for the Colonel and the Airline Pilot: it’s right across the Potomac from the Pentagon and from National Airport. The couple loves to travel and they have already been to France, Kuwait, Jordan, and Scotland together. They also love to stay home in Alexandria, Virginia with their Australian Cattle Dog, Verite, cooking and sampling all kinds of cuisine, going hiking, biking, riding horses, going to concerts and to hear bands play live, and looking at houses (Albane is also a realtor). Pictured (left to right) is Linda Jantzen, Colonel, US Army, active duty for 26 years and currently a Brigade Commander posted in Southwest Asia; and
Albane Koenig, an Airline Pilot and Realtor.
Vicki & Monika
Lt. Colonel Vicki Hudson served thirty-three years, retiring in December 2012. Her wife Monika is a psychologist while Vicki cares for their two daughters. Vicki served as a NCO and Officer in the Military Police Corps, and as a Civil Affairs and Information Operations Officer. She commanded two companies and three battalions, and deployed for Operations Desert Shield/Storm, Joint Endeavor (Bosnia/IFOR) and Iraqi Freedom with two domestic Noble Eagle tours.
Monika and Vicki had been dating just seven months when the September 11, 2001 attacks occurred. Over the next ten years, Vicki was mobilized three times as a Military Police or Civil Affairs officer with one tour in Iraq (2005). Vicki’s extensive TDYs for the Army either as a battalion commander or brigade operations officer meant Monika endured many months apart in silence, invisible, without support; the most excruciating when Vicki was in Iraq, leading convoys.
Vicki survived two “witchhunts” during her service and was one of the first clients of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network when it was founded in 1993. On September 20th, 2011 when DADT officially ended, Vicki became one of the first openly gay commanders in the United States Army. In October 2011, Vicki and Monika, with SLDN, challenged the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) via landmark litigation (McLaughlin vs Panetta). Despite the potential landmine this could become for her career, both felt strongly that standing up for Gay and Lesbian families and fighting an unjust and unequal law was the right action to take. In 2012, they received the Barry Winchell Courage Award for this action. On October 2, 2013, judgment was filed putting into law same sex military and veteran spouses were entitled to benefits, successfully changing the definition of ‘spouse’ in Title 10, 32, and 38 of U.S. Code. Army Strong!
Christopher & Carl
I am Carl Able, my husband, Christopher Able, and I met two years ago thanks to OutServe SLDN’s Facebook groups and were just married on August 9th. It took us nearly a year and a half to actually meet in person, and when we did, it was love at first sight. Christopher is an active duty Sailor stationed at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth and I am an active duty Marine stationed at Marine Corps Base Quantico. The fact that we are both active duty means that there a number of are hardships that we face, the biggest one is that we cannot come home to one another after work because we live three hours away from each other. We have quirky habits to make the distance smaller. We always Facetime each other around bed time and we actually don’t hang up when we go to sleep, falling asleep with one another and waking up to one another helps the time go by and closes that distance gap. Chris will be getting out in two years and will be able to move with me when I PCS though we are hoping to get co-location orders much sooner than that.
McKinzie Marie, April & Jennifer
My name is April and my fiancé, Jennifer, and I are both First Class Petty Officers in the Navy stationed in the National Capital Region. We have an 11 year old daughter McKinzie Marie. We met on the one year anniversary of DADT after taking a four hour bus ride to NYC and have not gone a day without talking to each other. As we both are on active duty, we now have to share the experiences of being away from each other. I never thought I would be in a relationship with another service member because of the issues of being away from each other; however, I look at this as a way for our relationship to grow stronger. Communication is the main factor in our relationship; as long as we are able to communicate by any means we know we can survive the Navy. I have six more years until my retirement and I cannot wait to be housewife. We plan to be married in 2014! Jennifer and my daughter are the two most important women in my life – my family is my life and there is nothing that will stand in my way to make them or me happy.
Rachael is a retired USAF Captain, having proudly served over 22 years from 1961 to 1985. Her Air Force career included assignments as Security Police, Basic Military Training Instructor, Missile Crew Commander, Administrative Officer, Executive Officer and Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Officer. In 1987, Rachael earned her MA in Human Resource Development. Rachael transitioned in 2007 and currently resides happily in Raleigh, NC.
Deb, Ainsley & Tracey
LTC Deborah Foley, is currently serving her 25th year with the NY Army National Guard. She lives with Tracy, her partner of 13 years, and Ainsley, their son who is in his last year at Champlain College in VT, in Northampton, MA, along with their 2 dogs, 1 cat, and Virgil, their son’s lizard. Deb and Tracy met in 1999 and Deb adopted Ainsley in 2005. In 2006, the couple opened their Private Investigation Firm. In 2010, Deb deployed to Baghdad, Iraq as a Senior Army Advisor. Their paths have taken them many places, but they always return home.
Tracey & Maggie
Tracey and Maggie’s description of their first meeting during a rugby match is cause for amusement: Maggie and her teammates were frustrated because no one could tackle Tracey, and Tracey’s sheer avoidance of Maggie because of her skills displayed during the match. Soon after this meeting, Tracey was deployed to the Middle East with her unit and provided veterinary care to Military Working Dogs as an Army Animal Care NCO. Upon Tracey’s return in 2003, Maggie and her teammates recruited Tracey to their team. Maggie and Tracey’s camaraderie as teammates and friends grew into love by 2005. After numerous proposals by Tracey, Maggie finally said yes and they were married November 1st, 2008 in Van Nuys, CA.
In 2010, Tracey was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (an incurable disease of the brain and Central Nervous System). Although the VA determined that MS was related to her military service, the VA denied spousal benefits for her wife. The couple reached out to the Southern Poverty Law Center, and, with the help of the law firm of WilmerHale, Tracey and Maggie are currently challenging DOMA and Title 38 of the United States Code so Maggie can be recognized as Tracey’s wife by the federal government for the purpose of veterans benefits. Their case is moving forward in the United States District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles.
Maggie has a high school math teacher background, and is finishing up her last year as a Transportation Electrician Apprentice with Local 11 IBEW Union. She continues to stay involved in rugby by coaching her alma mater’s Women’s Rugby Team at Occidental College. Tracey is working on her MPA at Clemson University and is employed at her local Veteran’s Hospital, assisting veterans with their employment goals. Maggie and Tracey look forward to adopting children in the near future. They are both animal lovers who have been adopted by 1 cat (Clemson), and are looking forward to adopting a retired Military Working Dog.
Scott & Dan
CW2 Scott Pierson is the Commander of the 133d Washington Army National Guard Band at Camp Murray in Tacoma, WA. He has served for 19 years as a military musician in the USMC, Air National Guard and assumed his current position in September 2007. Scott is currently working on his Doctorate in Conducting at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dan served in the Navy as an Aviation Electronics Technician Petty Officer Second Class from 2001 – 2006 in VQ-1, homeported out of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. The couple met in July of 2008 and began completing each other’s sentences within the first five minutes. In the November 2012 election, Washington State voters affirmed marriage equality, and Scott and Dan were married on April 18th, 2013 by a Washington State Superior Court Justice. They plan to have their “official” wedding in June of 2014 after Scott finishes his Doctorate and the couple returns to Washington. Immediately following the repeal of DADT, Scott appointed Dan as the Lead Family Readiness Group Coordinator for his unit and two weeks later they attended the 96th Troop Command Ball together; overall, they have been welcomed with open arms by the Washington Army National Guard Family. In their spare time, Scott and Dan enjoy entertaining, volunteering, and exploring the great outdoors.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 (Army) Tania Dunbar and Deborah Graham-Dunbar (Co-Founder of MPFC) met in 2010 on Facebook while Tania was deployed in Iraq with the 3rd Infantry Division. While on her two weeks of R&R leave, Tania and Deborah finally met and fell in love. They were married in May of 2011 in Washington DC, surrounded by friends from OutServe-SLDN, MPFC, and Knights Out.
They are currently stationed at Fort Bragg, NC where Tania works on Air Defense missile systems and Deborah pursues her Masters degree in Social Work. They have a son, Elijah, a daughter, Michelle, a four legged daughter, Savannah the Pit Bull, and 3 fish, which do not have names because they will not answer to them. Outside of work and school, Chief (as Tania is if often called) and Dee stay busy working on human rights issues both inside and outside of the LGBT community. Dee is very active in the church, and has a passion for advocacy and volunteer work as well as holds an advisory position with “You Are Strong! Center on Veterans Health and Human Services”. When the couple isn’t doing that, they are trying their hand at renovation projects, imitating what they are seeing on DIY TV ripping their home apart and putting it back together.
Family time is spent camping by the different lakes throughout NC, trips to the museum, spending time at the beach, finding different nature trails, fun art and science projects with the kids and Dee teaching the kids a little of her Jamaican culture (mainly the food) . The family, in a year or so, would like to add another little Dunbar (or two). Wish us luck as Elijah would like 8 more brothers and sisters, he likes the number 10 (we think he watches too much ‘Monk’).
Chris & Novia
Chris, Novia, and their 9-month-old son CJ live near Louisville, KY with their 2 dogs and 4 cats. It is certainly a full house for this Air Force family! Chris recently retired at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, having served 28 years in the Air Force/Air National Guard and Novia, a Master Sargent, currently serves in the Air National Guard. Chris and Novia also both entered civil service, working for the Veterans Administration. In their very limited free time, Chris is a basketball official at the high school and collegiate levels and Novia trains for triathlons. The couple, having been together for 11 years, was elated to add to their family by adopting CJ this past year as he quickly became the light of their lives.
Mickey & Sarah
Mickey served in the U. S. Navy during the 1980’s and was discharged due to her sexual orientation. In turn, Mickey lobbied and volunteered on campaigns to overturn the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy, and most recently as a field organizer for marriage rights in Maryland. The couple lives in the Metro DC area where Mickey attends graduate school at George Washington University, majoring in Political Management in Advocacy Politics. Sarah works for a municipal agency in environmental testing. Together for over ten years, the married couple has a cat named Samantha “Sam” that runs their home and hearts.
Matthew & Ben
Although Matthew and Ben met in 2010 at the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network national dinner in Washington DC and became good friends, they were living in different parts of the country and their first date wasn’t until two years later when Matthew invited Ben as his date to the 2012 LGBT Pride Month Reception at the White House. Their already close friendship bloomed quickly into love, and Matthew proposed to Ben at the White House in December during a holiday tour with MPFC. The wedding will be this May in Seattle, Washington, where Ben is from and where marriage equality was passed in November. Matthew and Ben will transfer to Okinawa, Japan this summer.
Dan & Gary
LT Gary Ross exchanged vows with his partner of nearly 12 years, Dan Swezy, at the Moose Meadow Lodge in Duxbury, Vermont the moment “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed. Ross and Swezy recited their vows at the stroke of midnight on September 20, 2011, making them the first same-sex military couple to legally marry in the United States. The Rosses celebrated their first anniversary and the first anniversary of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” at a tribute to Admiral Mike Mullen hosted by Barbara Walters aboard the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City on September 18, 2012.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network filed landmark federal litigation on behalf of the Rosses on October 27th, 2011, suing the U.S. Attorney General, the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. The case challenges the constitutionality of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and seeks equal recognition, benefits, and family support for equal sacrifice and service in the U.S. Armed Forces.
LT Ross wrote about his experiences and on-going battle for “In the Shadow of Greatness.” The book is a unique anthology of essays and stories, providing a portrait of the first class to graduate from the Naval Academy following 9-11, into a new generation’s war.
The Rosses live in San Diego where LT Ross serves as Combat Systems Officer on U.S.S. ANCHORAGE (LPD 23). Dan works full-time as a Client Service Representative at Broadway Athletic and Swim Club and is actively involved in several Navy support organizations.
Pam & Shanon
‘I have spent the last 13 years helping my incredible wife, Shanon, raise our wonderful 25 year-old daughter, Ashleigh, and 23 year-old son, Michael. They have blessed us with two grandsons, Brayden (5) and Caleb (3), and a granddaughter, Leighton (2). We are definitely an Army family, as Michael is a Specialist in the Army National Guard and Shanon worked for the Guard as a civilian for 13 years. Our family has ‘served’ together through near 30 years of service and three deployments between Michael and myself – so, we know what a sacrifice being a military family can be. But through it all, we believe that no matter what, family comes first!
When not spending time with our family, Shanon is a State Director with Paxen Learning Corporation, providing educational programs and outreach services to under-privileged youth, and I serve as a Branch Chief in the Personnel Division of the Army National Guard in Arlington, Virginia. We know the challenges of raising a family without the support of military services (especially during deployments) prior to the repeal of DADT, and hope that more family support services and acceptance into Family Readiness Groups will continue to improve for our LBGT families. We are hopeful to also see the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) during our ‘tour of duty’ as a military family.’
-Pam, Active Duty Army
Kenton & Johnny
On July 6, 2012 during a breezy late afternoon in Honolulu, Hawaii, the former Kenton Chang and Army Major Johnny Wandasan tied the knot. They exchanged their vows in front of family and friends at the Hickam Officer’s Club, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor – Hickam.
Johnny is currently the regiment executive officer at a military training institute, and Kenton is a respiratory technician. Additionally, Kenton is the Family Readiness Group Key Leader for Johnny’s unit, and has been actively engaged in attending conferences and gathering resources to support the regiment’s Soldiers and families.
Together they are raising a two year old American pitbull, and the latest addition to their family, a rescued three year old miniature pitbull.
Darin & David
My Name is Darin and my husband, David, is a MSgt in the Air National Guard. David was active duty in the Army for many years before embarking on his current career path. We have been together for 19 years, and were finally able to get legally married last year after the repeal of DADT. I have been a flight attendant for 18 years, and we live in a rural town of about 500 people in the Pacific Northwest. We live on what once was a small farm, and hope to have chickens and goats after we retire.
Jodi & Jennifer
My partner’s name is MSgt Jennifer L Hamilton. She is a Senior Master Sergeant select stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, LA and will sew on her new rank sometime in September. She will hit the 20 year mark with the USAF in November. Jen is originally from Monroe, Michigan and I am from Denver, Colorado. We met on line and have been together for 2 years this past January and were recently engaged in March! I have three children from a previous relationship, which Jen proudly assists me in parenting. We have an 18 year old daughter (19 in June) which will start her sophomore year of college at Northwestern State University this coming fall. We have a 17 year old son (18 in July) that will be graduating from High School this month and will be attending East Texas Baptist University in the fall and we have a 13 year old son (14 in July) that we, as of today (May 1) regained custody of and he now lives with Jen and me.
Michael & Stephen
On January 15, 2012, CPT Michael Holtz, USAR, and Stephen Utley took a step 24 years in themaking – they exchanged vows before family and friends in a wedding ceremony in Worcester, MA. They met in college and have been partners since January 1988. Stephen supported Michael’s decision to enlist in 1997 and has been a regular participant in Family Readiness activities with the Reserves, including co-chairing an FRG with Michael’s mom during his 2003 Iraq deployment. Outside of their military lives, they reside in Arlington, VA, where Stephen is a public school teacher and Michael works for the Department of Energy.
Kacey & Beka
Kacey and Beka on their 3rd cruise together. Kacey is from South GA and Beka is originally from Atlanta, GA. They met in college and have been together for 3 years. Beka is an Army Reservist who is currently on a year-long mission at Ft. Knox, KY. Kacey is a nurse, which works out great for the military lifestyle. Although they do not have any human kids yet, the couple has a 15-pound cat named Jynx and a 2-year-old Beagle named Delilah that they adopted. Kacey and Beka spend most of their free time traveling. In the rest of their free time, they spoil their dog and enjoy time outdoors.
Meg & Katrina
Meg Rapelye (right) is a full-time social work graduate student and resides in the Greater Richmond, VA area with her partner of 6 years, Katrina (center), and their daughter, Elly (left). Meg is a former active-duty Coast Guardsman and Katrina is currently serving in the Coast Guard, stationed at Ft. Lee, VA. The family’s favorite pastimes include traveling and outdoor activities.