2022 LGBTQ+ Pride Month

Sgt. Harlie Bonine

DET 3, Co B Recruiting and Retention Battalion, Indiana National Guard

Bonine enlisted 10 years ago, right out of high school, "to do something that made not only myself but also my family proud." She calls Pride Month "a huge deal to not only me, but all LGBTQ+ service members. The observance also shows us that we are making progress. Yes, there is still work to be done and knowledge to gain, but we are shifting to a more diverse, inclusive workforce."

Staff Sgt. Cynthia Brinson

939th Military Police Company, Indiana National Guard

During her 21 years in the Guard, Brinson, left in the photo deployed to Bosnia in 2004 and Iraq in 2008. Highlights include assisting with security at a presidential inauguration and traveling overseas. "This observance means a lot to me since during my military career I have witnessed the transitions of acceptance of my lifestyle. I joined under the policy of 'don’t ask, don’t tell,' where I was always worried that my career could end abruptly, to watching that policy disappear giving me the opportunity to be myself without any worries."

Staff Sgt. Katelyn D. Burkhart

Missouri Recruiting and Retention Battalion, Missouri National Guard

Burkhart joined the Guard more than 12 years ago at the age of 17. A highlight of her service was traveling with the 1231st Transportation Company over 10,000 miles across the central United States picking up and transporting dunnage. "Soldiers in the MOARNG are all different in many ways: gender, age, race, nationality, origin, religion, sexual orientation, political affiliation, medical status, etc. I am passionate about ensuring everyone, regardless of differences, are able to work together professionally in uniform to find a common ground to work together in unison to accomplish the mission at hand."

Staff Sgt. Paul N. Castleberry

Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 153rd Infantry, 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Arkansas National Guard

Castleberry has served for 13 years and enjoys traveling to many different places. "Pride is interesting to me in that I don’t necessarily feel 'proud' to be gay. It does not define me, it is simply a part of me, as is my eye or hair color. ... I am serving openly and freely in the military and it wasn’t that long ago that people could not."

Sgt. Kate Cole

Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1-134th CAV, Nebraska National Guard

Cole joined the Guard in 2015 to continue doing what she loves, serving others. A medic, she screened people for COVID during a five-month mission in 2020. This month's observance "means I can be who I am without feeling shame or having others treat me differently. My only label is Sgt. Cole, not Sgt. Cole the bisexual. I’m simply seen for my accomplishments and as a confidant for those seeking a medic, not for my sexuality. It also means I have the support of those standing with me in a world where that isn’t always the easiest to find."

Sgt. Ashley Cook

1438th Transportation Company, Indiana National Guard

Cook joined the Guard in 2012 to honor a childhood friend who was in the Young Marines and died before he got his chance to join. She says Pride Month means unity and acceptance no matter what. "I grew up in a very religious and judgmental family that did not accept me for me. Pride Month is special as it reminds me that I am accepted by others, and all of us are human no matter who we love or what we look like."

Spc. Kelsea Cook

120th Public Affairs Detachment, Indiana National Guard

Cook enlisted in the Guard in 2014 in her senior year of college. "My mother’s No. 1 concern when I enlisted was the fact that I am gay and how I would be treated for that. The military has come a long way in the way they see and treat people, even from the time when I first enlisted. I’m proud to be a part of an organization who takes pride in the diversity it has and recognizing those people for their differences."

Lt. Col. Nicole David

Colorado National Guard, currently assigned to Space Operations, National Guard Bureau

David has served for 26 years, including with the Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Colorado National Guard. The highlight of her military career was serving as the State Partnership Program bilateral affairs officer in the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan. "As an Airman that served under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell for 15 years, it is remarkable to see the DOD joining the Nation and the world in highlighting LGBTQ+ Pride Month. Diversity is a fact. Inclusion is an act. ... An inclusive culture that leverages diversity of experiences, thought, background, and perspectives gives our military an advantage over our adversaries."

Capt. Cody McCarthy

National Guard Bureau Public Affairs

McCarthy has served in the Guard for 10 years. He says Pride Month "shows that the military acknowledges that each of its members come from different backgrounds, whether easily visible or not, and wants to showcase their support for that. It is a public statement that you don't have to be afraid to join just because of who you are. I was able to change my last name to my spouse's (also in the military) and we have both been recognized as partners/spouses at various military events. We belong in this military, just like any other service member."

Senior Airman Breanna McClearen

118th Medical Group, Tennessee National Guard

McClearen joined the Guard four years ago to serve her home state for any natural disaster or emergency, as well as her country. A highlight of her service was deployment readiness training in California last year. "To be able to be out and proud of my partner while serving is just another day at the office to me, but in the big picture of things it is amazing to see how far we’ve come in breaking down the walls of 'don’t ask, don’t tell.' I can now be proud of who I am while being proud of being a military member and have no shame."

Staff Sgt. Claudia Rector

1163rd Medical Company, Kentucky National Guard

Rector always wanted to be a Soldier and joined the Guard in 2004. She has served in Iraq, Afghanistan and Europe. This observance means "we are moving in the right direction. Being someone who joined the military knowing that I had to hide this part of my life from everyone in the military, to being here today talking about it, it's pretty cool to see history playing out in your lifetime."

Airman 1st Class Marcella Schubbe

148th Maintenance Squadron, Minnesota National Guard

Schubbe joined the Guard in 2020 and is deployed to Southwest Asia while working online toward a degree from Oregon State University. "Pride Month for me is honestly just a nice reminder that comes along every year. A reminder that there are people on our team, people that support us, etc. I personally don’t wear rainbow or share my sexuality for Pride, but it feels amazing to be reminded of all the people out there that support me and the way I love."

Spc. Madison Wilhelm

Headquarters and Headquarters Company, One Hundred and Third Brigade Engineer Battalion, Pennsylvania National Guard

Wilhelm, an intelligence analyst, joined the Guard in 2019. A highlight of her service was participating in food drives and setting up a temporary hospital during the COVID pandemic. She says Pride Month is very special because she hasn’t always had a supportive background.