Analysis & Opinions - The Boston Globe

Thank You, Ash Carter

| Oct. 27, 2022

Former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter died this week. I never got to thank him for changing my life.

Before I became a Belfer Young Leader in the fellowship Secretary Carter founded at Harvard Kennedy School, before I became his student in technology and public policy, I was an Army ROTC cadet, hoping to join his chain of command at the Department of Defense. The only problem? I was female and nonbinary, and it was 2014.

At the time, the US military’s transgender ban and combat ban on female service members precluded me from military service. I had naively joined ROTC without realizing I was not eligible to commission as an Army officer. When I finally learned about these bans, I was crushed. Even if I did commission, I would have had to do so in secrecy, knowing there would be severe limits to my career.

Everything changed when Secretary Carter took over the Department of Defense. Amid angry dissent within the ranks, he overturned these sexist and transphobic policies in 2015 and 2016, respectively. On the heel of these historic changes, I proudly commissioned as an Army officer in 2016.

For the next four years, I led transgender soldiers who were now eligible to receive gender affirming medical care through the military and integrated the combat arms. I served during the 2017 North Korea missile tests and as one of the 101st Airborne Division’s first female officers in a combat-coded position. None of this would have been possible without Secretary Carter.

Yet, I never thanked him.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Park, Grace.“Thank You, Ash Carter.” The Boston Globe, October 27, 2022.

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