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LGBT Military Discussion Group from JBLM

New group meets at the Starbucks Community Store in Lakewood

From left: Dana McCormick, Ana Rose Pike, Erika Lawrence. Photo credit: Jason McCormick

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It's no secret that there are gay, lesbian, and transgender soldiers on post at Joint Base Lewis-McChord; however, despite the repeal of the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, many of them are still closeted.

"I knew from active-duty there were LGBTs on post," said retired Sgt. Dana McCormick, president of the Olympia chapter of the national LGBT support group PFLAG. "I served with them for years, and when (my son) Robert came out, I realized how lonely they are."

With the help of fellow PFLAG members Ana Rose Pike and Erika Lawrence, McCormick started a military discussion group for LGBT servicemembers, veterans and their families.

The group meets the second and fourth Friday of every month at the Starbucks Community Store in Lakewood. Soldiers, airmen, dependents and veterans are all welcome to attend. It is a secure place where everyone can speak openly and where confidentiality is respected.

McCormick (profiled in last week's Ranger) recently retired from active-duty service on JBLM. Pike and Lawrence are both veterans, and both are male-to-female transsexuals. Lawrence served as a C-141 loadmaster in Thailand during the Vietnam War.  Pike was an Air Force intelligence analyst in Kurdistan during the Iraq War.

McCormick thought about holding the discussion group on post, but was afraid people would not attend or would not feel comfortable there. She met the Starbucks regional manager during her transition out of the Army, so she contacted him. He showed her the community center at the Lakewood Starbucks, and she saw it was an ideal place to hold the meetings.

"They do outreach for vets," McCormick said. "I saw it was secured and a good location for folks on post to get to."

She said the group is "needed for active-duty because they move so much and are not aware of local resources and safe environments where they can openly discuss what's going on. I know there's quite a bit of education that isn't happening for LGBT servicemembers."

She also stressed, "I want it open for vets because they can bring a lot of experience to the discussion group."

Training in diversity issues on post is sketchy at best, McCormick said.

"Everybody just thinks ‘Let's read these slides that were provided,' but there's no open dialogue," she said. "The lack of education is clear across the board."

The Military Discussion Group meets the second and fourth Friday of each month from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Starbucks Community Store, 10314 South Tacoma Way near Highway 512.

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