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Pride: LGBTQIA+ Service Members in Military Health

We’re proud to honor the LGBTQIA+ service members in military health who paved the way for all by making history and changing history.

pride month hero image

We’re proud to honor the LGBTQIA+ service members in military health who paved the way for all by making history and changing history.

1940 Bertram Schaffner

Pride 2023 Bertram Schaffner

Because of his medical training as a psychiatrist, Bertram Schaffner was drafted in 1940 as a medical officer. Ironically, Schaffner, a gay man, was tasked with evaluating draftees for their “mental fitness” to help the military weed out suspected homosexuals. Officially, a homosexual was supposed to be dishonorably discharged, which would negatively affect the rest of his life. But Schaffner had another idea, unofficially. Schaffner decided to find (or create) another reason to discharge gay draftees so they could be honorably discharged.


1943 Johnnie Phelps

Pride 2023 Johnnie Phelps

Johnnie Phelps joined the Women’s Army Corps as a medic and earned the rank of sergeant. She served under General Eisenhower. Eisenhower reportedly told Phelps he heard there were lesbians in the WAC and ordered her to 'ferret them out'. Phelps famously told Eisenhower she’d be happy to oblige, but her name would be first on the list. The result? Eisenhower withdrew the order. 

1945 Charles Henry Stevens

Pride 2023 Charles Henry Stevens

Charles Henry Stevens was a Pharmacist’s Mate First Class. He served on the Navy hospital ship USS Repose during the last days of World War II combat in the Pacific. Stevens continued his service during the Korean Conflict. He was awarded the WWII Victory Medal.

1956 Patsy Thompson

Pride 2023 Patsy Thompson

Patsy Thompson entered the Air Force Nurse Corps in 1956. Thompson was assigned to Mather Air Force Base in California. After a clinic supervisor assignment in England, she joined the Army National Guard’s 175th Medical Group. Thompson served 19 years as chief nurse then as Army National Guard chief nurse at the Pentagon. She received many awards, the highest of which was the Medal of Medical Merit. 

1961 Margarethe Cammermeyer

Pride 2023 Margarethe Cammermeyer

Margarethe Cammermeyer led the charge for LGTBQIA+ Americans to serve openly in the military. She joined the Army Nurse Corps in 1961. She was the VA Nurse of the Year in 1985, earned the Bronze Star for service in Vietnam, was chief nurse of the Washington National Guard, and earned a doctorate in nursing science. During her military career, Cammermeyer challenged policies that discriminated against married women, and married women who became pregnant. After she came out as lesbian, she was discharged from duty on the grounds that she was a homosexual. Her story drew wide attention. The result? A lawsuit ruling by a U.S. District Court that deemed her discharge and the ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military as unconstitutional.

1968 Tom Norton

Pride 2023 Tom Norton

When the U.S. Army asked for medevac pilots for Vietnam, Tom Norton volunteered, despite warnings that he’d be constantly exposed to enemy fire. Norton was assigned to the 498th Medical Company at Lane Army Heliport in Qui Nhon and over the next year flew 2,186 wounded service members to safety. He was shot down — forced to land — more than 20 times, earning the Bronze Star for valor.  In 1993, he put on his Army dress greens for the historic Gay March on Washington, where he and other Vietnam veterans received heroes’ cheers.  

1985 Paula Neira

Pride 2023 Paula Neira

Paula M. Neira is a transgender woman who holds both a law degree and a nursing degree. She graduated with distinction from the United States Naval Academy in 1985. Neira served until 1991, when she came to terms with her gender identity. At that time, serving as an openly transgender person in the military was not an option. So, she left the Navy to begin a career as an ER nurse. Neira’s new career path led her to being named the clinical program director for the Johns Hopkins Center for Transgender Health. She is recognized as being instrumental in getting “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repealed.

1994 Don’t Ask Don’t Tell


"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was the official United States policy on military service of non-heterosexual people, issued under Department of Defense Directive 1304.26 on Dec. 21, 1993, and was in effect from Feb. 28, 1994, until Sept. 20, 2011. The policy allowed gay and lesbian citizens to serve in the military as long as they did not make their sexual orientation public. Commanders were prohibited from inquiring about a service member’s orientation provided that they adhered to this condition. Additionally, the policy forbid military personnel from discriminating against or harassing closeted homosexual service members and applicants. Find Out More: Don't Ask Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010.

2007 Daniel Hohman

Pride 2023 Daniel Hohman

Daniel Hohman turned down a U.S. Naval Academy appointment because he feared being discovered as a gay man. Instead, he began college studying cellular and molecular biology. Mired in student loan debt, he applied for the Navy and went to Aviation Officer Candidate School. After two assignments in Okinawa, rumors grew about Hohman’s sexual orientation. Hohman was terrified that he’d get kicked out under “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, but a general put an end to those rumors by commenting publicly how Hohman was a great medical asset. Today, Hohman is an openly gay man serving as a physician for NASA.

2008 Alivia Stehlik

Pride 2023 Alivia Stehlik

Alivia Stehlik graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 2008. She’s also a proud transgender woman. After graduating from the Army’s physical therapy school, she provided physical therapy for the entire eastern region of Afghanistan. In February 2019, Stehlik testified before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Her message to the Committee was clear: being an open, transgender woman in the military has not affected her service to country nor her ability to defend it. In June 2022, Stehlik became the Medical Advising Team Leader, 3rd Security Force Assistance Brigade at Fort Cavazos, Texas. 

2008 Jesse Ehrenfeld

Pride 2023 Jesse Ehrenfield

Jesse Ehrenfeld earned his medical degree from the University of Chicago and his master’s in public health at Harvard University. In 2008, Ehrenfeld was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Naval Reserve. His deployments include assignments in Afghanistan where he served both as the Anesthesiology Division Officer and the Public Affairs Officer. He has testified before Congress and advocated for transgender service members and those banned from serving in the military.

2010 Reinstatement of Discharged Gay Service Member

Pride 2023  Margaret Witt

Margaret Witt served on active duty for eight years as a flight nurse and operating room nurse in Operation Desert Storm. She transferred to the Air Force Reserve in 1995, logging nearly 2,000 hours as a flight nurse. In 2003, she received an Air Force Commendation Medal. But in 2004, the Air Force pursued discharging Witt under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. In 2006, she challenged the Air Force and U.S. government in a federal lawsuit. She was honorably discharged in 2007. Then, on Sept. 24, 2010, a federal judge in Tacoma, Washington, ordered Margaret Witt’s reinstatement to the U.S. Air Force. 

2010 Kevin Cho Tipton

Kevin Cho Tipton comp

Kevin Cho Tipton enlisted in the U.S. Army during the era of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” DADT was a Department of Defense policy that allowed gay and lesbian service members to serve in the military if they did not make their sexual orientation public. Tipton, a critical care nurse practitioner with the 125th Fighter Wing of the Florida Air National Guard, rose through the ranks from cadet to flight commander, reaching the rank of major. During his 14 years of service, Tipton kept his private life private. In October 2018, Tipton became a critical care nurse practitioner for Memorial Health System. Less than two years later, Tipton was activated for COVID-19 vaccination missions to provide education and immunization services to thousands of military personnel and their families across Florida. In 2022, Tipton came out publicly during testimony on the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Tallahassee, Florida. One year later, in recognition of his efforts to support well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic, Vice Adm. Vivek H. Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general, presented Tipton with the Surgeon General’s Medallion. It is the highest honor the U.S. Public Health Service can bestow on civilians.

2011 Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

Pride 2023 DADT Repeal

In September 2011, President Obama signed the bill repealing the 17-year-old "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Find Out More: Don't Ask Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010

2013 DOD Extends Spousal and Family Benefits to Same Sex Spouses

Pride 2023 DOD Extends Benefits

The Defense Department made spousal and family benefits, including TRICARE, available to same-sex spouses if a valid marriage certificate was presented.

2016 Military Transgender Policy

Pride 2023 Military Trans Policy

On Oct. 1, 2016, the Department of Defense ended the ban on transgender Americans serving in the U.S. military. Service members could no longer be involuntarily separated, discharged, denied reenlistment, or continuation of service solely for being transgender individuals.

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Last Updated: October 30, 2023
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