Brig. Gen Tammy S. Smith is quite accomplished. The 49-year-old has been serving in the U.S. Army for the past 26 years and, on Friday, she became a general. But, Smith is making headlines for a reason that supersedes her professional abilities. At her pinning ceremony last week, she became the first openly-gay general to serve in the Army — and the overall military’s — ranks.
This development comes after the military dropped its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy last year. During a ceremony on Friday, Smith’s wife, activist Tracey Hepner, pinned on her star, publicly acknowledging Smith’s sexuality and open devotion to another female. In a press release put out by the Defense Department, Smith said that “participating with family in traditional ceremonies such as the promotion is both common and expected of a leader.”
As far as her distinction as being the first gay general, Smith openly pushed her historic standing aside.
“All of those facts are irrelevant,” Smith said of her sexuality, according to Stars and Stripes. “I don’t think I need to be focused on that. What is relevant is upholding Army values and the responsibility this carries.”
According to The New York Times, Smith and Hepner got married in March 2011 in the District of Columbia. Hepner is the co-founder of the Militaries Partners and Families Coalition, a non-profit organization that “provides support, resources, education and advocacy for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender military partners and their families.”
“The support we’ve received has been amazing,” Hepner said of the chatter surrounding Smith’s openness. “I wasn’t surprised that people were so accepting, but in some cases it has been even celebratory.”
“It’s like nothing has really changed for us, and yet everything has changed,” she added.
From 2010 to 2011, General Smith was deployed to Afghanistan where she served as the chief of Army Reserve Affairs, the Times reports. Currently, she is the deputy chief of the Army Reserve in Washington, D.C.
Advocates claim that it’s unlikely that Smith is the first gay general, however recent changes concerning “don’t ask, don’t tell,” among other military sentiments have created a scenario in which she can be the first open individual.
“For me, the story is about the promotion and the opportunities it brings,” Smith maintains.
(H/T: NY Times)