By Kelly Craig
A wife pins a star on her partner’s uniform celebrating a promotion from Army officer to brigadier. This pinning makes officer Brig. Gen. Tammy S. Smith the first openly gay officer of flag rank in the United States military.
Tracy Hepner affixed the star to her wife Officer Smith, 49, a 26-year Army veteran, at the women’s memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.
Hepner was the 2011 co-founder of the Military Partners and Families Coalition, which “provides support, resources, education and advocacy for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender military partners and their families,” according to their website.
Hepner says, “We are military families who happen to be gay, not gay families who happen to be military. The outreach from non-governmental military support organizations has been tremendous. The welcome mat is out for our military families.”
Also in 2011, the couple married in the District of Columbia in March.
Six months later, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was abolished after a federal law change.
“Participating with family in traditional ceremonies such as the promotion is both common and expected of a leader,” General Smith says.
Although General Smith’s the first gay officer in her rank, spokeswoman for OutServe Sue Fulton said it is “highly unlikely” General Smith is the only one. According to the New York Times, “[Fulton] called General Smith’s public acknowledgement significant.”
General Smith has previously deployed in Afghanistan as the chief of Army Reserve Affairs from December 2010 to October 2011. She now serves as the deputy chief of the Army Reserve in Washington.