Finding pride through service

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Makensie Cooper

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, HAWAII - - Before the Department of Defense’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was repealed, many airmen had to conceal specific aspects of who they were while serving their country.

Capt. Jennifer Kapauhua, 624th Aeromedical Staging Squadron registered nurse, joined the Air Force 22 years ago as a medic with two main goals in mind: obtaining an education and helping people.

During the first ten years of her enlistment, however, she wondered if her military career was worth the emotional hardships of having to hide who she was. Because of the DADT policy, Kapahua had to live two separate lives and frequently debated leaving her Air Force career behind during her first two tours.

“I already knew who I was when I joined. I joined for the education benefits, and as time went on I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t have anyone else I could really relate to and I felt really alone,” said Kapahua. “It didn’t feel fair, I wanted to be able to be me and not be punished for it.”

Finally in 2011, the DADT policy was officially repealed, and eight years later, she finally felt included during her commissioning ceremony where her wife was able to pin on her rank.

“It’s really nice to go to functions and events or even share the same conversations with people that I can relate to–nothing to do with being different or sexual orientations–but just being able to share in conversation, family and holidays and being able to introduce my wife,” said Kapahua.

She shared that she had to create two separate lives before the repeal. Now she serves as a symbol of diversity and inclusion to her fellow airmen.

“After the repeal, I don't think it actually dawned on me right away. As the years went by I just became more comfortable with who I was,” said Kapahua. “The day I felt like I could be my authentic self, was the day I could finally breathe.”

She celebrates pride in her life everyday, and hopes that sharing her story will bring awareness and comfort to those in her shoes.

“We should be celebrating everybody all of the time, the whole point of the military is serving as one team, there are a lot of great human beings out there that all bring something to the table,” said Kapahua.