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Serving with pride: LGBTQ airman reflects on time in Air Force

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- Staff Sergeant Cesar Lopez was worried about the treatment he would receive as a gay man in the Air Force. His fear subsided, however, after learning the kindness and inclusiveness of his colleagues.

"I knew there was still work to be done," Lopez said, "but I knew I wouldn't be alone, if I were to come out."

An aerospace ground equipment craftsman at Holloman Air Force Base, he says his fellow airmen have made him feel at home. He didn't always feel this way, however.

Enlisting in 2016, Lopez said he was eager to join, but afraid to be himself.

"I was still hesitant to let anybody know about it," Lopez said. "When I was in basic training nobody knew. I kept it to myself."

With the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in 2011, LGBTQ service members felt that they could serve the country they love without hiding who they love.

Still, Lopez was hesitant.

"I wasn't exactly sure how the culture had already adjusted or shifted to be more accepting," Lopez said.

Upon joining, he learned not everyone was accepting towards the LGBTQ community.

"There were some people that were still very much homophobic," Lopez said. "They would stand up and they would say I don't agree with their lifestyle."

Shortly after arriving at his first assignment, things began to change for him. There, his co-workers welcomed him with open arms.

"That's when I started to realize that it wasn't as big of a deal as I thought it would have been," Lopez said. "It made me feel greatly accepted, like I could be who I am without any reservations."

ABC-7 reached out to the Department of Defense's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee about the importance of repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. In a statement they said:

"We must adapt to our surroundings and make sure we are able to include anyone of any background, allowing for the military to mirror the American population. It allows individuals to feel part of a cohesive team regardless of their background, sexual identity, ethnicity, etc."

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Brianna Perez


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