Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III releases statement on Pride Month Published June 2, 2023 DoD News WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- This Pride Month, we honor the service, commitment, and sacrifice of the LGBTQ+ service members and personnel who volunteer to defend our country. Their proud service adds to America's strength. Their contributions to our national security are powerful. Members of this community have deployed to combat zones around the globe, held high-ranking positions in the Pentagon, and fought and died alongside their teammates. To defend our republic and win its wars, the ranks of the U.S. military must remain open to all qualified patriots who seek to serve. Militaries that do not avail themselves of the best possible talent of their citizenry put themselves at a strategic disadvantage. We would be rendering ourselves less fit to our weighty task if we excluded from our ranks people who meet our standards and who have the skills, the guts, and the devotion to serve in uniform. I believe that the story of America should be one of widening freedom, not deepening discrimination. In 2021, I was honored to implement President Biden’s directive to ensure that transgender Americans who wish to serve and meet Department standards are able to do so — openly and free from discrimination. This often-painful history has made something clear: Who you love and how you identify has nothing to do with how bravely you can fight for your country. When we speak up for the rights of all Americans, when we encourage all qualified Americans to stand a post, we strengthen both our democracy and our national security. The U.S. military is the greatest fighting force in history, and we intend to keep it that way. As Secretary of Defense, I remain dedicated to making sure that our LGBTQ+ personnel across the Joint Force can continue to serve the country that we all love with dignity and pride — this month and every other one. We thank you for your service — and we thank your spouses and your families, whose support makes your service possible.