A U.S. Airman Shares How He Serves With Pride

By Senior Airman Mark Sulaica

Pride Month is a significant time for service members in the LGBTQ+ community. It’s a time to celebrate, reflect and unite, and it serves as a reminder of the progress made and the challenges that remain. For many, Pride is deeply personal, marked by unique stories and emotions. Staff Sgt. Felipe Coronado, a member of the 647th Force Support Squadron services, recently shared his journey and what Pride means to him.

“Pride, to me, means having the courage and strength to be one’s true authentic self. It means being brave enough to stand up and be proud of who you are,” said Felipe. “And never letting others’ opinions of you determine your success or capabilities.”

Felipe believes it’s important to celebrate Pride every year to remember where we came from and to honor those who paved the way. “The very meaning of Pride to me is being proud and resilient against all odds,” he said. While society and the military have made progress, he acknowledges that the fight isn’t over.

Being in the military for over eight years as an openly gay service member has been marked by both tough challenges and personal growth for Felipe. His military career began at McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey, and he has dedicated most of his career to Mortuary Affairs and Base Honor Guard, providing dignity, honor and respect to the fallen and their families.

His career took a significant turn when he had the opportunity to serve as a contingency skills instructor at the 421st Combat Training Squadron. "I made it my mission not to allow my sexuality or bubbly personality to change or deter me from having opportunities as a Combat Instructor,” he explained. He faced challenges but also found support from LGBTQ+ mentors and wingmen who stood up for his rights.

As a combat instructor, Felipe knew he had to work twice as hard to earn the respect of his peers and students. "Coming from a customer service background and being authentically me, I wasn’t afraid, and I fought hard to earn my title.”

There were days when he wanted to quit as a combat instructor because he felt like an outsider and lost hope. However, when he remembered the mentors he had going through his career as a Mortuary Affairs, Base Honor Guardsman and services, he wanted to give back and be a positive role model for new airmen and other members of the LGBTQ+ Community.

Hoping to become a first sergeant, Felipe wants to use the hardships he faced to help others. “I want to take all the experiences I’ve gone through in my career, the good and the bad, and help those who may be going through a rough time. Every experience molds you into a stronger person, and it’s up to you to choose whether to let it break you down or to make a change and develop the culture.”

Felipe is proud to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community and is grateful for all the allies who have had the strength and courage to stand up for what’s right. He believes that, at the end of the day, we all bleed the same and are there to support our brothers and sisters in arms through any adversity that comes our way.

-This story was originally published on DVIDShub.net. It has been edited for USO.org.

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