June 23, 2018 05:17 PM
Among the hundreds of booths set up for Pride weekend in Minneapolis, at least one is there for the first time.
Thousands of people are gathering to celebrate the annual event in Loring Park, but for the first time, the Uptown VFW has a booth.
Members tell 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS it's all about inclusion.
"I don't think any other VFW has come to a Pride," Eric Swenson, with VFW Post 246, said.
The Uptown VFW Post 246 welcomed veterans, active service members, and even those with no affiliation to the military to their booth throughout the weekend.
"I've come here several times and several years and I've not seen a VFW here before, so I was like wow, cool," Carol Lohman said, a veteran from Spring Lake Park.
Lohman served for 30 years, including two deployments. She calls this a huge step for an organization she says hasn't always been seen as "gay-friendly".
"If they want to be a sustainable organization for the future and be around, then they have to be welcoming to folks like us," Lohman said.
With a mission to assist, advocate, and bring together all veterans and their families, some members acknowledge there is still a stigma around the acceptance of LGBTQ members in the military and the VFW.
"There's a little resistance, I'm not going to lie," Swenson said.
In 2011, the U.S. Military repealed the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy that was in place for 18 years, banning openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual individuals from military service.
"Personally I don't care who you sleep with, I just care that when you're in a foxhole you do your job," Tommy Johnson, with the VFW Post 246, said.
Next year, the Uptown VFW is celebrating its 100th birthday.
"Liberty and justice for all means liberty and justice for all," Johnson said.
Members hope this is a step forward not only for them but VFW's across the country.
"Change is change and some people like it and some people can't stand it and if we do it now, two years from now when everyone else is struggling to change it's going to be our norm and I think that's great," Swenson said.
Updated: June 23, 2018 05:17 PM
Created: June 23, 2018 03:25 PM
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