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Misawa Air Base Proud of Pride

Parade participants wave to onlookers from a float

Members of the Pride Parade, composed of various LGBTQ+ community members and supporters across Misawa Air Base, Japan, wave to onlookers, June 26, 2021. Active participation in Pride events and celebrations is a way for the Air Force and Department of Defense to foster an environment of diversity and inclusion among service members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chris Jacobs)

Families viewing a parade pick up candy from the ground as the parade passes by

Members of the Pride Parade throw candy to families and onlookers at Misawa Air Base, Japan, June 26, 2021. Until the “Don’t ask, Don’t tell Repeal Act” was implemented on September 20, 2011, members of the LGBTQ+ community were not allowed to serve openly in the United States military. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chris Jacobs)

A person in an inflatable shark and a woman participating in a parade wave to onlookers

Members of the Pride Parade wave to onlookers at Misawa Air Base, Japan, June 26, 2021. “Pride” was the central theme of the LGBTQ+ movement, in an effort to counter pervious intolerance and disrespect that led to members of the LGBTQ+ community feeling ashamed or outcast for being who they are. Claiming Pride is a way to remove those feelings and stigmas. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chris Jacobs)

Parade participants line up and prepare to launch.

Members of the Pride Parade form up in preparation to launch at Misawa Air Base, Japan, June 26, 2021. Pride month is celebrated every June to commemorate the Stonewall Riots which occurred June 28, 1969. The riots were one of many catalyst for the first Pride demonstrations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chris Jacobs)

Parade participants receive a safety brief before launching the parade.

Senior Master Sgt. Paul McArdle, Pride Parade organizer, gives a safety brief before the Pride Parade starts at Misawa Air Base, Japan, June 26, 2021. Team Misawa celebrated Pride Month throughout June with several events including a 5K Color Run and a panel discussion to recognize and celebrate the contributions of the LGBTQ+ community to the military. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chris Jacobs)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan --

Service members and supporters of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer (LGBTQ)+ community at Misawa Air Base culminated Pride Month celebrations with a Pride Parade June 26, 2021. The parade route passed through residential areas on both north and main base. Participants decorated floats, tossed candy and showed pride in being who they are. 

Other celebrations included a 5K Color Run and a panel discussion, to highlight the contributions, progress, and inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community in the Air Force. 

Pride Month is celebrated throughout the United States, and the rest of the world, in June to commemorate the Stonewall Riots which took place June 28 – July 3, 1969 in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. The spontaneous demonstrations would later be seen as the start of the Pride Movement, in which members of the LGBTQ+ community protested the legal discrimination against them and demanded equal rights and protection under the law. 

“Pride” was the central theme of the movement, in an effort to counter previous intolerance and disrespect that led to members of the LGBTQ+ community feeling ashamed or outcast for being who they are. 

The Department of Defense had a long standing policy barring military service to those who were openly in the LGBTQ+ community. In 1994, the DoD implemented the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy which prohibited military personnel from discriminating against or harassing closeted homosexual or bisexual service members or applicants. However, the policy still prohibited openly gay, lesbian or bisexual service members or applicants.  

“Being a minority myself, I understand what it is like to be oppressed, or what it is like to be discriminated against,” said Tech. Sgt. Bradley Haywood, 35th Fighter Wing diversity, equity, inclusion representative. “And to have that done by the country, the service you’re a part of -- this is your family -- and to not really be allowed to be yourself at that point is rough.” 

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed September 20, 2011, allowing LGBTQ+ community members to serve openly without discrimination against their sexual orientation. 

“It gives me a sense of pride in the military that we are able to accept that change and able to push forward,” said Haywood. “The people I know who have pushed through, the conversations that I have with them are amazing. It’s amazing. The pain, the struggle they have gone through before Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed to now gain that pride, that achievement that they pushed through, are some of the best stories I’ve ever heard.” 

Although Pride Month is not formally recognized as a special observance by the DoD, most bases, including Misawa Air Base, still have Pride events and support local activities.