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News from CNREURAFCENT

NSA Naples Celebrates Pride Month

26 June 2024

From Josephine Schneider

In June, Sailors and civilian personnel onboard U.S. Naval Support Activity (NSA) Naples participated in two separate events to celebrate Pride Month. The Department of Defense recognizes June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) Pride Month.
One of the events hosted by the Multicultural Heritage Committee featured guest speakers, live music from the U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. Sixth Fleet Band, barbeque from the First Class Petty Officer Association, and refreshments from the University of Maryland, Global Campus staff.

Sailors and civilian personnel from all corners of the installation gathered to hear real stories about fear, bravery, acceptance, and authenticity. Among them, Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Davon Sanders who had a unique opportunity to share his coming-out story.

Sanders recalled the first time he reluctantly told a family member about his sexuality. It was his grandmother. “She [grandmother] didn’t care who I loved, just that I was loved,” he told an audience of more than 50 Sailors and civilians during the pride event.

After a lifetime of hiding his sexuality in fear of being rejected by family, Sanders said he felt a weight lifted off his shoulders from his grandmother’s acceptance.

A growing number of LGBTQ+ service members now feel comfortable sharing their story, thanks to the repeal of the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy.

It was a policy in which service members were not required to disclose their sexuality and prohibited from investigation, LGBTQ+ military service members were still subject to removal if their sexuality was revealed. This policy was formally repealed in 2011, upholding the fundamental American values of fairness and equity.

“When I joined the Navy, the policy of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was still around,” Lieutenant Commander Andres Espinosa said. “Before 2011, I couldn’t talk about my partner at all. In 2016, we were able to get married.”

Another Pride Month event, hosted by the Moral, Welfare, and Recreation department, featured a Color Run 5k onboard U.S. Naval Support Activity, Gricignano, Italy. Participants wore white at the starting line and were doused with colored powder at the finish line.

With splotches of colored powder all over themselves, Espinosa and his husband Robert Ramos cooled down in the shade after running 5 kilometers.

“At our last installation, they didn’t have any events like this,” said Ramos. “It feels great to be seen and supported by the community we’re a part of.”

These pride events at NSA Naples featured members from the Gay, Lesbian, and Supporting Sailors (GLASS) association. As an active member of GLASS, Legalman 1st Class Zelma Ali helped organize the event alongside her association president, Master-At-Arms 3rd Class Andrew Marroquin.

“Pride Month is about showcasing those who have fought to be seen as equal,” said Ali. “I am straight but my sexuality does not limit my support, expressing comradery to those who identify as LGBTQ+.”

Marroquin had some advice to fellow members of the LGBTQ+ community who may be new at NSA Naples.

“From my experience here as a gay man, you can present yourself however you want,” Marroquin said. “Because at the end of the day, leaders at every level always remind us that we are supporting the same mission.”

NSA Naples is an operational ashore base that enables U.S., allied, and partner nation forces to be where they are needed, when they are needed to ensure security and stability in Europe, Africa, and Southwest Asia.

For more information about NSA Naples, visit our website: https://cnreurafcent.cnic.navy.mil/Installations/NSA-Naples/

Follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NSANaples and Instagram at @NSANaples
 

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