News: Same-sex couple serves with honor
Story by Staff Sgt. Tramel Garrett
BAGRAM, Afghanistan – For most military couples a deployment usually involves a significant amount of time apart. A fortunate Army Reserve same-sex couple from Plantation, Fla., has taken advantage of the opportunity to serve together in Bagram, Afghanistan.
Sgt. Angie Juarez is currently on her second deployment to Afghanistan, and it has been a little easier with her wife Sgt. Macrina Juarez by her side, as a fellow member of the 724th Military Police Battalion.
“I remember telling her what it was like being here,” said Angie. “Now we are here together, and it’s awesome to share that with your best friend.”
“This has been interesting,” said Macrina. “It’s cool to share the experience of deploying together; going to war together as a married couple.”
The two were married April 15 while on pass to New York City.
But things have not always been simple for this couple. They began dating in 2010 and had to hide their relationship due to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which was repealed in September 2011.
“We kept it a secret,” said Angie. “Anyone who looked at us thought we were best friends. We didn’t want it to be a factor. She had her job and I had mine. We performed separately, and it was never an issue.”
The couple had its doubts about letting the military know about their orientation, but their unit supported them all the way.
“It was still a little uncomfortable at first,” said Angie. “We gradually worked our way to it because we were not sure how people would react to it. Our First Sergeant has been a big supporter. He supports us as individual Soldiers and as a married couple.”
Courage to Move Forward
Coming out to their loved ones was a major step. Hoping their family would understand what they were going through and accepting them was a huge leap of faith. This was truly a very emotional time in their lives.
“I was in college, and I was able to let loose, be myself and come out of my shell. I started dating other women and realized who I really was,” said Macrina.
Macrina and her mother were on a drive to a local store. She was contemplating on how to tell her mother what she was feeling inside. She finally had the courage to tell her what was on her mind.
“I told her I had to tell her something,” said Macrina.
Her mother began to ask multiple questions. Are you pregnant? What did you do? Are you in trouble? She finally asked if she was gay.
“I immediately started crying. She said she loved me, and supported me no matter what and wanted me to be happy,” said Macrina.
Angie took a different approach with a Facebook relationship status update. Family members notified her mother and she had to explain what was happening.
“I struggled with it, so it was hard for me to come out,” said Angie. “I really cared about her (Macrina), and I didn’t want it to be an issue. My mother has accepted it, and she loves Macrina.”
Leading By Example
The Juarez’ continue to serve America with pride. Angie’s military specialty is a military police officer and internment/resettlement specialist. As a civilian, she protects and serves the citizens of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., as a police officer.
“I'll never forget my first day on the road as a cop, wearing the uniform in the street is a double edge sword,” said Angie. “On one hand people look up to you, and trust your judgment and seek your help. I was so proud to wear that uniform and be that person.”
“On the other hand it was scary. It's much like the war in Afghanistan. You never know who is out to hurt you,” said Angie.
She worked in the 724th MP BN Joint Visitor Bureau and Future Operations, which facilitates key leader engagements with distinguished guest, such as members of the U.S. Embassy, congressional representatives and foreign dignitaries.
“Her efforts enable high level decision makers to witness the benefits of Afghan National Detention Facility-Parwan detainee operations, and its alignment to strategic level goals and objectives,” said Sgt. 1st Class Priscila Alvarez, 724th MP BN Future Operations noncommissioned officer in charge.
“She is a professional NCO who consistently places mission first, personal interests second,” said Alvarez. “Due to her outstanding performance, I can focus my efforts on planning during this key period of transition.”
As a civilian, Macrina works for the Transportation Security Administration in Fort Lauderdale. She has also worked as a volunteer firefighter and an emergency medical technician. She has always been passionate about taking care of others, which is why she enjoys her current assignment as a 724th MP BN combat medic.
“I’ve always wanted to be a combat medic, even before I knew what it was,” said Macrina. “Having ill Soldiers come in and giving them something to make them feel better. To be the person to make someone feel better is a great feeling.”
Senior leadership working with Macrina has noticed her enthusiasm and lead from the front approach. She was recently promoted to sergeant, solidifying her status as a leader.
“Watching Macrina get promoted was a lot more emotional than I thought it was going to be,” said Angie. “She was born to be a combat medic and to lead other medics in the field.”
“She's courageous and wouldn't mind taking the place of the person who's got the hardest job,” said Sgt. 1st Class Lee Robins, Camp Sabalu-Harrison Troop Medical Clinic NCOIC.
“In the small amount of time I've known her, she always stood out from the other medics. She knows her job; she challenges other medics to do the same,” Robins added.
She is also the lead medic on the TMC's Smoking Cessation Program. The program has been successful with a total 13 out 20 service members who have stopped smoking.
“I'm so proud of her, and I'm excited to see what she's going to do in the future. I'm lucky I get to stand beside her and always cheer her on,” said Angie.