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NAS Jacksonville Hosts First-Ever Gay Pride Event

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Lindsey Kilbride
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WJCT News

Since the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was repealed a few years back, the military has had to find a way to integrate a newly outed community of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender service members.  

On Tuesday, Naval Air Station Jacksonville held its first-ever gay pride event. A Navy spokeswoman says the celebration is first on any Navy base in the southeastern United States.

On a back wall of a cafe on Jacksonville’s Navy base, the American flag hung beside a rainbow flag Tuesday. One of the day’s speakers, Peggy Huddleston, says she’s been serving in the military for 20 years, most of them as a Navy chaplain.

“I stand before you today in awe, excitement and humility that I can talk to you today as a naval officer and a chaplain as an out and open lesbian,” she told a crowd of a couple dozen servicemen and women.

Later, service members, families and friends cut into a special dessert baked by Navy cook Ervin Riddick: a rainbow-colored cake decorated with the logos of all U.S. military branches.  

Riddick said, “Before the whole 'don't ask, don't tell' got appealed, I was always worried about what people thought of me in the Navy, but now to be open and happy, it’s a good day. “

Since President Obama signed the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, several other military bases have also hosted similar pride celebrations. 

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.