LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. --
Maj. Tyler McBride, 62nd Fighter Squadron F-35A Lightning II instructor pilot, and Capt. Justin Lennon, 56th Training Squadron F-35 instructor pilot, performed a Pride Month flyby over Luke Air Force Base, June 26, 2020 to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community.
Pride month was created in 1999 by President Bill Clinton to recognize the gay and lesbian community and has since been expanded to include the bisexual and transgender community.
“Pride month is an opportunity to celebrate the progress that we’ve made as an LGBTQ+ community,” said McBride. “It’s an opportunity to be thankful for, in my case my family and my little kid, things that weren’t possible even just 10 years ago.”
McBride and Lennon executed the flyby over base as part of a routine training flight in support of a 62nd FS instructor upgrade mission.
“Our mission here today is in support of the mission here at Luke Air Force Base; to train the world’s most capable fighter pilots,” said Lennon. “I think that’s significant in recognizing day-in and day-out what the thousands of LGBTQ+ service members do throughout the Air Force.”
The dedicated flight was made possible by the perseverance of McBride and Lennon and by the leadership’s commitment to inclusion.
“I was super excited they came and asked me,” said Lt. Col. Chris Hubbard, 62nd FS commander. “Ten years ago there was two members of my squadron who couldn’t openly be who they are, now they can. I think it’s pretty cool to mark that occasion.”
In 1982, a complete ban of gays in the military was set in place and under it nearly 17,000 men and women were discharged in the next decade. The complete ban was then replaced by Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in 1993, a policy prohibiting service while openly gay. An estimate of over 13,000 men and women were discharged during its 18-year tenure.
“When I first went to the Air Force Academy in 2006, as a young 18-year-old kid, I struggled with the idea that I couldn’t serve and be who I was but I knew that we would get there,” said McBride. “So now we have an Air Force that is inclusive and is actually made up of the members who we serve. That’s important, whether it’s race, creed, sexual orientation, man or woman, we have to be a representation of the people who we serve; every American.”
After 29 years, the Department of Defense began the journey towards inclusion and acceptance. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed in 2011 and in 2013, the DoD extended spousal and family benefits to same-sex marriages.
“It makes me proud knowing that the Air Force goes out of its way to accept both myself and Major McBride based on our sexual orientation, but on a larger and grander scale it makes me proud to serve in an Air Force who’s demographic is representative of the demographics of the United States,” said Lennon.
Throughout national and Air Force history, minority groups have been motivated movers of progress. LGBTQ+ Pride Month and McBride’s and Lennon’s flyby celebrate the movements that make inclusion possible.
“While the LGBTQ+ community has a long way to go in the fight for equality, we also have a lot to celebrate and the purpose of this flight is to do just that, celebrate all the efforts of progressive generations that got us to June of 2020,” said McBride.