JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. --
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. – While the LGBT community remains a minority in the military, they serve in the same positions of excellence and roles of responsibility as any other service member. One such Airman is Senior Master Sgt. Jeremiah Grisham, 11th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal flight chief.
“I am an Airman, a wingman, a leader, and also a gay man,” Grisham said. “Everyone’s experience is their own and mine is almost certainly different from yours.”
Grisham has been serving relatively openly since 2000.
“Amongst the EOD community, I’ve been out nearly my whole career,” Grisham said. “That didn’t always translate to my senior Air Force leadership knowing, but among my approximately 1000 brothers and sisters wearing this badge, I’ve served openly. In the EOD community, people only really care about one or two things. Can you do your job? And can you keep me alive on the battlefield?”
Grisham survived six combat deployments during his time in service.
“I was able to establish that I could in fact, do my job on and off the battlefield and that’s all people cared about,” Grisham said. “I was treated like every other competent EOD technician in the world, with loving affection and constant ridicule by my EOD brothers and sisters.”
Grisham was always very conscious that he was different.
“I made sure that I always showered first or last in the mornings after PT,” Grisham said. “I felt I had to do to make everyone else comfortable. That changed as time passed and my confidence and comfort with being a gay man increased.
Grisham noted the irony of bringing his husband to unit events following the repeal.
“On more than one occasion, I introduced my husband to senior leadership and they thought I was kidding,” Grisham said. “It was always an honest reaction, I know they weren’t trying to embarrass us. Serving openly was still relatively new.”
According to Grisham, as an EOD technician, he understood that that’s exactly the kind of humor that his career field is known for.
“It simply never occurred to them that the EOD Flight Chief might be gay,” Grisham said. “I had to stop and say no, this really is my husband. Each time it happened was an ‘a-ha’ moment for everyone. I knew then and I know now, there is still road left to travel on this quest we call equality."
In Grisham’s own words, diversity has come a long way.
“Acceptance is something that I think our younger Airman expect rather than hope for wistfully,” Grisham said. “But as members of the LGBT community, we still have work to do; to help educate each other and be receptive to those lessons. This road can still be tough for some people, we still have men and women who choose to serve in silence.”
Grisham emphasizes leadership’s need to take care of their troops.
“For those of us in leadership positions, what your troops think of you is even more critical than what your superiors do. I realized that I could be the leader they needed by being my most honest and sincere self. I would do anything for my guys, and they know that to be true, so they follow me. I will lead them into battle, I will serve next to them and I will bring them home.”
“Strive to be the best Airman you can be,” Grisham said. “Work hard to hone your craft. Take care of your fellow Airmen and cultivate a culture of excellence. You will find, as I have, that your Airmen will follow where you lead.”
(This is part of one of three of an LGBT Spotlight series.)