By Story by Staff Sgt. Daryl Bradford
Task Force Spartan
As the Army comes to the end of the month of June, I want to say we would be remiss if we didn’t talk about pride, and to be more specific Pride Month.
When thoughts of Pride Month enter the mind, it is paired with images of colorful parades littered with extravagant costumes through downtown streets. But that can’t be all it’s about, can it?
We all have pride; in ourselves and in our work. But Pride Month has to be something much deeper to have an entire month dedicated to it, doesn’t it?
I wanted to know. I wanted to be educated.
So, I asked the bigger question of “What is Pride Month?” And it did not take long to get a reply.
Spc. Richard Le Blanc, a Signal Company admin clerk, 36th Infantry Division, Task Force Spartan, was happy to oblige my interest and give me a lesson in Pride.
“There is no single dictionary definition of Pride,” said Le Blanc. “Pride as a concept began with the marches, riots, and demonstrations that were spurred by the Stone Wall Riots in June of 1969…demonstrations that would eventually become a mainstream celebration known as Pride Parades.”
Le Blanc said that when the month of June became about Pride, it stretched the single event into an entire Pride Season — with each major city celebrating in their own way at their own time.
Once the important question of what the movement is seems to be answered an even more important question of “Why” comes to the forefront.
“We celebrate Pride because we’ve survived,” said Le Blanc. “We’ve survived in a world that has tried to either eradicate us or force us into hiding. Pride is a reinforcement telling us that everything we’ve been through personally or as a community is worth it because we can finally be ourselves without fear or shame. Furthermore, Pride reminds us of where we have been and where we are going.”
From talking to Le Blanc, Pride Month is a celebration of every individual in a much larger community, but the celebration is also attached to a reminder of how far the world still has to go.
Le Blanc said he was treated as a second-class citizen for the first 19 years of his life in a state, and a country, where he worked, lived, and served — not having protections as a LGBTQIA+ employee till 2020.
“Pride is necessary because there is still work to be done,” said Le Blanc. “If nothing else, Pride is an opportunity to start a conversation. In the last ten years, the world and the Army has done a 180 in its attitude toward the LGBT+ community. The Army and Queer community can’t expect that after almost 300 years the world would suddenly change and be perfect. It takes work, on both the Army’s part and the part of the Queer Soldiers.”
Talking about the LGBTQIA+ community and informing his fellow Soldiers about that culture is not foreign to Le Blanc. Trying to avoid confusion resulting from an issue, Le Blanc saw the need for an informative class that could educate and possibly avoid violations of the Army’s Equal Opportunity policy.
“I recognized that what would help both parties the most wasn’t an accusation of misconduct but an opportunity to be educated,” said Le Blanc. “The class is geared more towards enlisted leaders but has a little something for everyone. My motto for the class is ‘Let’s talk about it.’ Let’s talk about what to do if a Soldier of yours comes to you with LGBT+ related questions or problems.”
Le Blanc saw a chance to bridge a gap and do his duty as an Army Soldier by using his knowledge and pride in himself to educate and grow his squad. He has taught the class twice now to positive feedback and would like to teach it again to a higher element if possible.
Le Blanc said he thinks pride should be the eighth Army Value because without it there can be no honor.
“When Soldiers are proud of their units, they serve them honorably,” said Le Blanc. “Soldiers are baptized in the fire of military tradition and then given a piece of that flame with the charge to keep it burning. But without pride in military tradition, what motivation does a Soldier have to keep that flame burning?”
A valid question for the present but also as the military looks to the future on inclusivity and assisting in inspiring feelings of pride in military service for those that have felt traditionally side-lined.
Le Blanc said, as a suggestion when talking about the future, he thinks the Army needs to stop trying to be hyper-inclusive and focus on refining the existing force.
“There is a saying in southern Louisiana where I’m from, ‘Do you want a big church or a holy church,’” said Le Blanc. “The best way to create a better working environment for Queer Soldiers is to educate the existing force and allow inclusivity to happen naturally. Why strive to bring in different Soldiers before you’ve created the force that will allow them to succeed?”
Pride Month is so much more than just a celebration of oneself and the diversity that makes not only our Army but also our nation great. While the military as a whole still has a ways to go to change its culture, Pride Month, and beyond, are opportunities to educate, change perceptions and over all be better as a fighting force because we are united in our pride for ourselves, in each other and our military. But it starts with questions and listening and as Le Blanc said, a conversation.
“We should be able to expect quality leadership in the face of diversity of opinion or thought,” said Le Blanc. “And that begins with a conversation.”
U.S. ARMY RESERVE
DEPT. OF DEFENSE
U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND
DEPT. OF HOMELAND SECURITY
BEST WARRIOR COMPETITION