Arlington – Less than two years after the end of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ Col. Tammy Smith has been promoted to brigadier general, making her the first openly gay general in US Army history.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Tracey Hepner, Gen. Smith’s wife, pinned the star signifying her new rank on her shoulder during a promotion ceremony Friday at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. More than 70 people attended the ceremony. Still-Col. Smith entered the auditorium with her commanding officer, the national anthem was sung and the pledge of allegiance recited by a young boy, and Smith’s father and her wife were presented. Upon Hepner’s announcement, the audience broke out in applause. Until quite recently, Gen. Smith would have had to keep her relationship with Hepner a secret. ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ the military’s decades-old discriminatory ban on LGBT service members serving openly, was only officially repealed in September 2011. Before that, Smith risked being expelled from the Army if she disclosed her love for Hepner. Stars and Stripes reports that while Gen. Smith acknowledges the significance of her promotion, she is not fixated on making history. “I don’t think I need to be focused on that,” the 49-year-old said. “What is relevant is upholding Army values and the responsibility this carries.”