When a military spouse makes the kind of difference in the lives of those around her that Ashley Broadway-Mack has made since her entrance into the public consciousness in 2o12, she deserves to be recognized.
Which is why it is wasn't a surprise to anyone except Ashley that on Jan. 18 Army Secretary Eric Fanning presented her with the Secretary of the Army Public Service Award, the second highest Army award a civilian is authorized to receive.
Ashley has a long history of serving the LGBT military family community. She first came on the public military spouse scene immediately after Don't Ask, Don't Tell was repealed but before LGBT spouses were permitted ID cards (a move that would take the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013). She wanted something many spouses want: to join the local military spouse club.
But that simple request turned into a months long national saga as the Fort Bragg Officer Spouses' Club changed their bylaws to specifically state that a person must hold a military ID card to join, therefore excluding Ashley from eligibility.
Public pressure eventually forced the Club to change its mind. But the incident put Ashley in full advocate mode, and helped push the American Military Partners Association into the position of influence it holds today.
Ashley has since served as president of AMPA and, along with other volunteers at the organization, has advocated tirelessly for the rights of LGBT military family members. The things they want are simple, really, like being able to have a military ID card and access to healthcare and all the other things that every other spouse enjoys.
Ashley said she was so surprised by the award, which she learned she would be getting only the morning before she received it, that she did not really have time to emotionally process what was happening. That the award was presented by Fanning, himself a member of the LGBT community and advocate for LGBT rights, just added to its magnitude, she said.
"He's so very well respected within the LGBT military community ... he was the one on the front line when it comes to the [Don't Ask, Don't Tell] policy," she said. "So to receive an award from him that recognizes something that I'm so passionate about and our organization is so passionate about, it was truly an honor."
"Drawing from more than 19 years as a military spouse, Ms. Broadway-Mack has been an advocate for the timeless importance of military partners and children, while highlighting the need to adjust support and services with an eye for changes in family structure," the award states. "As President of the American Military Partner Association she demonstrated a steadfast commitment to ensuring our force provides support to meet the changing nature and needs of our military families. Ms. Broadway-Mack’s unwavering commitment and dedication to Soldiers and our nation’s Army is in keeping with the highest traditions of public service and reflect distinct credit on her, the United States Army, and the Department of Defense."