In Gratitude for the Leadership of Major Vorderbruggen

In Gratitude for the Leadership of Major Vorderbruggen 150 150 admin

Today I learned that my US Air Force Academy classmate (2002), Major Adrianna Vorderbruggen, was killed along with five other American troops in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan. As a global community, we have lost an incredible leader. Not because she was a military officer serving in a combat role and that is what we say about all military members, but because she fought for equality. Adrianna was the first openly gay woman to be killed in action and a pioneer in the repeal of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy being one of the first to get married after the signing. Her death ironically comes five years after the repeal almost to the day.

The more I look through all the news stories about her, and see her face more and more, the bigger the fire ignites within me about being a true leader – one who alters the course of humanity. I left active duty service in 2009. One of the reasons I left was that I had begun to feel like I was wearing discrimination as I put on my military uniform as it was still at that time, my duty to “out” any homosexuality. I couldn’t bring myself to do this as it went against what I thought was right despite my orders to the contrary, so every day as I interacted with more and more colleagues who were homosexual, I would feel more and more out of sync. I ultimately decided I would no longer condone this, but as a heterosexual it wasn’t my battle to fight, so I would leave the service. I called myself a leader at that time in my life, but upon reflection of what my classmate was up to – being herself a lesbian in a DADT policy era – and yet choosing to stay in and fight for her country while strategically and measurably taking action to move the Department of Defense forward on issues of equality… I have had to re-evaluate my assessment of myself.

Writing about Adrianna this way would make you believe that I know her really well. While I had many classes with her, I didn’t hang out with her and I haven’t interacted since we graduated. This for me is even more humbling that I had no idea until her death of the difference she was making with her life.

Today, I am emboldened by the life of Major Adrianna Vorderbruggen to dedicate my life to real leadership – to the making- a-difference-for-humanity kind of leadership. For me, this does not mean going off to the far reaches of the globe seeking those in need, but rather in my everyday actions, in my everyday environments, with my everyday colleagues, teachers, clients, friends and family, that I stand for what is possible for humanity and that I don’t give myself a pass because “it’s not my battle”. It is humanity’s battle, and I’m part of humanity.

In memory of and gratitude for Major Adrianna Vorderbruggen, USAFA Class of 2002