Gay man named US Navy ‘Spouse of the Year’ has emotional Ellen Show moment
Ellen DeGeneres had an emotional interview with the first gay man to be named Navy Spouse of the Year.
The honour went to San Diego-based real estate executive Brian Alvarado, whose husband Matthew Alvarado has served in the US Navy for 19 years.
Brian was this week named Navy Spouse of the Year by Armed Forces Insurance, which has been running an annual contest recognising spouses of serving armed forces personnel.
The Alvarados are the first same-sex couple to ever be given the accolade, which comes just a few years on from the lifting of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – a law that banned people serving in the armed forces if they were openly gay.
Matthew explained how far the military has come since the law was repealed.
He said: “For 15 years, I served under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell… so the Department of Defence and the US Navy has taken great strides over the past few years to be accepting and loving, and they just see us as a sailor and his spouse, serving this country.
“The day it changed, the day it was repealed, everyone was like ‘Oh, okay, go back to work now.’
“My experiences with many of my coworkers… many of them are cheering us on right now, to show the dramatic love and support we’ve got.”
After winning the Navy accolade, Brian Alvarado will go head-to-head with spouses from five other branches of the US Armed Forces – the Army, Air Force, Marines, National Guard and Coast Guard – as he hopes to be named the overall Armed Forces Spouse of the Year.
Brian added: “In May we are travelling to DC, where I will be participating in a week-long event programme that culminates in the USO Gala. At that Gala they will announce which of the six branch winners will be the overall spouse of the year for 2018.
“On so many different levels it’s a chance to continue the work I’m already doing in the military community. I volunteer for an organisation called Hiring Our Heroes that works to provide employment opportunities for veterans, transitioning service members and military spouses. That’s such an important space right now. Employment is what keeps us going.”
Brian got emotional as he addressed the talk show host’s own legacy on LGBT rights.
He said: “The year I was graduating high school, you came out. So, for my entire adult life, you have been a true inspiration for us to live our authentic selves, and not be defined by our sexuality, and to go out in the world and do good. I wanted to thank you for that.”
The couple presented Ellen with a military challenge coin to thank her for her decades of visibility – before she in turn surprised them with a $10,000 cheque for Hiring Our Heroes.
The pair both brought their mums to the taping.
Brian added: “It is the honour of my life to be a military spouse and to stand proudly next to my husband as he serves our great nation in the United States Navy. The work we do to lift up, support and improve the lives of our military community is a very important part of my life.”
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A release from Armed Forces Insurance adds: “As a male military spouse in a same-sex, interracial marriage, Alvarado’s recognition illustrates to the world that our military community is a strong, supportive, diverse and resilient community.
“Like other branch winners, he was nominated for his work in the community as a U.S. naval ombudsman at Fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare Training Center and volunteer work with Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Professional Network.
“In his role as an ombudsman, he reports to the command leadership and acts as a liaison between the command and the families of the sailors who serve on base. He is also very passionate about his work with Hiring Our Heroes, working to improve the nationwide 16 percent unemployment rate within the military spouse community both on a local and national level.
“The LGBT community fought hard for equality, both in service to our nation and for marriage equality. The important thing to remember is that with that equality comes the responsibility to engage, support, and give back to the military community as a whole. We are stronger together.”
Lori Simmons of Armed Forces Insurance said: “Armed Forces Insurance has been a part of the Military Spouse of the Year program for nine years and we congratulate the amazing branch winners who are working tirelessly to make their communities better.”