Less than a year after the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” former Army Colonel Tammy Smith was promoted to brigadier general Friday making her the first general officer to come out while serving.
Tammy Smith received her stars from her wife Tracey Hepner in a private ceremony at the Womenâ€™s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.
According to Stars and Stripes, Smith, 49, has been assigned as deputy chief at the Office of the Chief at the Army Reserve. Before “don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed, she told the military newspaper last year that she was not planning on coming out to her colleagues, but would be relieved when she and Hepner would be able to go out together without worrying about being outed.
Now, Hepner said she is still focused on serving the Army, but the last year has allowed a major life change for them.
“The support weâ€™ve received has been amazing,” Smith said. “I wasnâ€™t surprised that people were so accepting, but in some cases it has been even celebratory. Itâ€™s like nothing has really changed for us, and yet everything has changed.”
Sue Fulton, a 1980 West Point graduate, and member of OutServe’s board of directors, heralded Smith’s new position.
“For years, gay and lesbian generals and admirals were forced to hide their families in order to protect their careers,” Fulton said in a statement. “It is a great day for our military and for our nation when this courageous leader is finally able to recognize her wife for her support and sacrifice in the same way that all military families should be recognized for their service to our country.”
Army Veteran and SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis predicted that Smith’s promotion and openness will encourage more high-ranking members of the military to come out.
“Brigadier General Smith made history todayâ€”not only as an exemplary service member who renders outstanding service to our nation with integrity and honorâ€”but as a proud lesbian acknowledging the tremendous sacrifice her family makes in order for her to serve and advance,” he said.
Other high ranking members of the military have come out, but most of them have talked about being LGBT after retiring or being discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell.”