JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. –
A young Kymon sits quietly in a wooden church pew with his parents and older siblings in a rural, small town in the heart of Georgia on a Sunday—he loves church. With a growing passion for singing, church is one of Kymon’s favorite places to be. He listens as his pastor exclaims, “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” This sermon conflicts with feelings stirring up inside of Kymon, making him ponder throughout his adolescence and into his teenage years. The recurring sermon theme leads him to worry if his loving family will accept him as he is.
“It's all we knew,” said Tech Sgt. Kymon Carriker, 316th Force Support Squadron Airman Leadership School instructor. “Knowing that it was always taught, homosexuality was wrong, it made a difference in me. When I did decide to tell my family, they received it with nothing but love.”
Carriker joined the Air Force after a challenging year in college while working a full-time job.
“My oldest brother is in the military, that’s where the idea came from.” Carriker said. “My brother explained, ‘if you want to just finish and go to school then join the military’.”
The self-described “country boy” with a love for fishing and the outdoors, and a deep passion for the arts of singing, dancing and acting, had a few reservations about joining the Air Force.
‘How am I going to make it through basic training?’, 19-year-old Carriker asked himself. “I kept my head down, did what I had to do and made it through,” Carriker said.
Carriker recalled finishing his first enlistment with a smirk looking into the distance, and explained he decided with his bachelor’s degree in-hand, “This isn’t so bad.”
When he initially enlisted, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, a policy preventing gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the military, was still in effect. Upon its repeal, many things in Carriker’s life changed for the better.
“I felt free to be authentically me,” Carriker said. “The freedom to actually have a significant other, have a relationship
with. It’s public, like any other person has, and it’s normal, not anything that’s going to get me in trouble. I’ve always been me, but the DADT repeal gave me the legal freedom. I could no longer be persecuted for it.”
Now a 12-year veteran, Carriker recently led a Pride Month panel detailing strengths and points of improvement for the LGBTQ community within the Air Force for Joint Base Andrews. During the panel, Carriker explained how sexual orientation can be minimized by individuals with different lifestyles.
“At first glance, people focus on what you’re doing behind closed doors,” Carriker said. “We are so much more than that, more than who we date or who we kiss, that’s not what our lifestyle is about. All we want is what everybody else wants. If you see me with my husband walking together, all we want you to see is the reflection of our love that we have for one another.”
Carriker shared that he is most proud of being able to succeed in the military for as long as he has. He also expressed his most important request of allies and supporters of the LGBTQ community.
“We want people to understand that love is the only thing that we have that defines us,” Carriker said. “I really believe that if you put love into the world, it’s something that will come back to you.”