I really can’t think of a better way to get back on my blog game, post-Miss Washington, then to tell a piece of this story. I love learning about different military experiences and the timing of this story couldn’t be better. Love is winning all over the country and life for those in the LGBTQIA community are improving. My first female feature is a part of the community experiencing this change. This blog is number one of a two-parter I was originally going to write as one post. There was so much good content that I split up the blog. Keep an eye out for my next military blog, featuring a drag queen!
Many that join the Army, use the military as a way to discover themselves. It provides an opportunity to travel, learn new skills and adapt to a way of life that is probably quite different from their norm. Kelsie Lyles was one of those people who joined the Army because she was a self-described “lost person.”
“A friend of mine mentioned I would make a good soldier, and my father was in the Army so I talked to a recruiter and the rest is history,” Kelsie said.
Kelsie joined the Army in November of 2011 and left for basic training the same month her own dad retired from the Army. Her current contract runs through 2019 but as of right now, if she’s still enjoying herself, she will sign another contract. If something changes in the future and she isn’t enjoying her work as much, Kelsie will switch to the National Guard or Reserves. Right now Kelsie’s rank is specialist but she is working on becoming a sergeant.
As a 92R in the Army, Kelsie is a parachute rigger. She packs parachutes for the airborne community and rig air drops loads of food, water and equipment. Jumping out of airplanes is her favorite part of the job. Kelsie lists completing long airborne school as one of her greatest achievements and is honored to be a part of the airborne community. Women play a huge role in the Army, and it’s a demographic Kelsie is proud to be a part of.
“Women can do almost any job and continue to drive for complete equality among our brothers.” Kelsie says.
As a gay woman, Kelsie’s experience in the Army isn’t quite the same as others. In recent years there has been a lot of change in the military as to how the LGBTQIA community is treated. Kelsie was fortunate enough to have joined after “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was repealed and says she actually faces more discrimination outside of the Army than in it.
Great strides have been made in the military to respect people’s private lives. Programs such as “Equal Opportunity” and “Open Door Policy” exist to prevent discrimination. Kelsie hasn’t been immune to discrimination because of her sexual orientation but believes as a whole, people have and are becoming more open minded to the homosexual lifestyle. Her weirdest experiences are when she uses a public restroom and older women mistake her for a young man.
Recently married, Kelsie and her wife Amberley tied the knot this past March. Like many military couples they had to rush to get married after Kelsie got orders to go to Germany. They were wed in a courthouse with close family and friends and plan on having a larger wedding when they return to the states. Ask Kelsie about her wife and she goes gaga.
“Oh yes my wife… If only I could put into words how wonderful she is,” Kelsie gushes.
Obviously, Kelsie and her wife were thrilled at the recent Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage nationwide.
“Any two consenting adults have the right to decide if they’re in love and want to make lifelong commitment to each other,” Kelsie says.
The Army and military as a whole is doing better at supporting their servicemen and women while they are active, but unfortunately, this support doesn’t always extend past their military careers. Although Kelsie is still enlisted, she recognizes that the VA can be a bear to deal with. Vets exiting the military often have difficulties receiving their benefits on time. Medical benefits can cause the biggest headaches of all.
What can civilians do to make veteran lives easier?
“Honestly all soldiers really want from civilians is a thank you once in a while and to be left alone,” Kelsie says.
As she’ll point out, it’s hard enough to be away from your families for months or years at a time. Veterans don’t want to argue about personal opinions and politics. Our troops don’t control what they do, they only follow orders because that is what they swore to do.
I’ve known Kelsie since we were young kids playing fast pitch together. Watching her find herself, serve our country and find happiness from afar has been a joy. I have to admit I was a little surprised to find that her experience in the military has been pretty seamless. This was an awesome surprise of course and I am so proud of our country for the strides we are making.