Drum roll please……
And the 2018 United States Air Forces Europe-Air Force AFRICA (USAFE-AFAFRICA) Key Spouse of the Year is Scott Johnson. The first male Key Spouse of the Year award winner for USAFE-AFRICA.
I never dreamt there was any possibility to be selected for this prestigious award, especially considering I’m a gay military spouse. You see, my husband and I have been together since 2008, however, we couldn’t be open about our relationship until Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed in 2011.
Having to hide our relationship was extremely hard, as we were in fear of him losing his career and being discharged from the Air Force. Although it was finally repealed, I still was not able to get access to many base activities because marriage equality wasn’t legal in the U.S. until June 2015.
We were married in 2014, when it was legal in only a few states and shortly thereafter moved to Colorado. In Colorado, my husband did not work on a military installation. He worked at a flight training school about 45 minutes away from where we lived, so I didn’t have the opportunity to experience everything military bases offered.
The sense of community, inclusion, and support were all foreign concepts to me. After being in Colorado for two years, we were notified our next home would be in Stavanger, Norway, working with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Joint Warfare Centre. Prior to and upon our arrival, we were apprehensive and quite nervous about how we would be accepted within such a small military community.
Thankfully, we were quite surprised by the warm welcome. No one has ever treated us any different from any other married couple. I developed a sense of belonging, so I started volunteering with the different spouses’ clubs and the U.S led base events. It wasn’t too much longer that I was appointed as the Key Spouse for my husband’s squadron.
This opportunity gave me the chance to exude how influential and vital members of the LGBTQ community can be to our society. My husband, also recognized as a great leader, was asked to be his Squadron’s Superintendent. His contributions led his unit to accomplishing great things and became evident when he was selected as his Wing’s Lance P. Sijan leadership award winner. The two of us, working together, assisted our U.S and Allied community stationed here in Norway.
Volunteering in our communities is critically important because it helps to give visibility to LGBTQ service members and their families. I hope our success encourages other LGBTQ military members to become more openly active within their own military communities. Imagine what we could have accomplished over the past 11 years versus the last two and a half if we would have been allowed to openly serve together.