By Rear Adm. John Fuller
Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific
Several weeks ago, my family and I attended a colorful Memorial Day lantern floating ceremony at Ala Moana in Honolulu. Although it was in many ways a traditional Buddhist ceremony, people of all faiths—and of no faith–attended.
Thousands of people launched lanterns of remembrance into the sea to honor lost loved ones. I found the entire ceremony a moving experience. Without trying to, that ceremony showcased once again the panorama of diversity here in Hawaii–second to nowhere else I’ve seen.
There is no dominant majority ethnicity, race or culture here in Hawaii. Instead, there is deep and abiding respect for a fusion of cultures and backgrounds and points of view. And there is wide overall acceptance of what is “different”; where “honor” is achieved by what people do and how they live their lives, not what they look like.
The Navy’s celebration of LGBT Pride Month for service members and civilians demonstrates an inclusive recognition of all our Sailors in the all-volunteer force, where people are judged by the content of their character, not by demographics or other aspects of who they are.
We can wonder how many Sailors and Marines of a different sexual orientation fought and died here in the Pacific during the Second World War and in our nation’s other wars. Untold numbers, I’m sure.
Our Navy has always been on the leading edge of innovation and inclusion. We can be proud of how our military has knocked down barriers and opened doors. We are one team.
Our common goal is to promote our core values of honor, courage and commitment and a warrior’s ethos.
We appreciate diversity. And those of us who are successful in the Navy must strive to strengthen the culture of dignity and respect for service members and civilian employees and to eliminate behavior that could jeopardize our mission and combat readiness.
On the deckplates, on the flightlines, in the field and in the work spaces, we develop and further a culture of dignity, respect and professional behavior.
Hawaii’s spirit of aloha and love of family–ohana–teaches us to be tolerant, inclusive and understanding. We value and appreciate each person’s contribution and we want each person to be proud of who they are.
This month we celebrated Pride Month here in Hawaii with a program and guest speaker, information display, special lunch and a cake-cutting ceremony led by Joint Base Commander Capt. Stan Keeve.
Last week, we know of at least one memorial service in Navy Region Hawaii for victims of the mass shooting in an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Two or more victims of that terrible tragedy had strong ties to Hawaii, according to local news reports, and a number of military families were directly or indirectly impacted. Here in Waikiki many people turned out to pay their respects at a candlelight vigil.
If anyone asks why we celebrate the panorama of diversity here at Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific during Pride Month, tell them: This is another opportunity to honor a portion of the 1 percent of Americans who volunteered to wear the uniform and who swore an oath–prepared to give their last measure to defend the Constitution and protect our homeland. We are honored to include and recognize everyone who gives honorable service to our nation.