Five years ago, President Obama formally repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the controversial military policy that prevented military members from openly identifying as sexual minorities. Since 2015 also marked the year that the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage constitutional, the president took to Facebook to commemorate the anniversary of DADT’s repeal.

“Today, Americans can serve the country they love no matter who they love, and openly gay, lesbian and bisexual men and women in uniform make our military stronger and America safer,” Obama wrote.

Since the repeal of DADT, I’ve received hundreds of letters from service members who can now serve their country openly. They come from every corner of America and from military bases around the world. And their stories are a powerful reminder of how much has changed over the past five years. Because of all we’ve accomplished together, a grieving widow can now receive her wife’s flag at her funeral. A spouse can now be part of his husband’s promotion ceremony. One person told me he had been torn between his desire to serve his country and his longing to live life openly as a gay man. He no longer is forced to make that choice. And just last summer, he was commissioned as an officer in the United States Navy.
But repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell wasn’t just about living up to our ideals. As Commander in Chief, I have no greater responsibility than keeping Americans safe. And when it comes to defending our country, we need to draw on the talents of every American – regardless of sexual orientation.

Obama’s mention of a grieving widow is a reference to the surviving spouse of Maj. Adrianna Vorderbruggen, one of the six troops killed in a recent suicide bomber attack. Before DADT was repealed, Vorderbruggen could not openly speak of her wife at work or schedule vacation time to coincide with the birth of her son. With DADT out of the way, Vorderbruggen’s widow Heather Lamb will receive the same benefits as other war widows.