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By Robb Lingley, 21st Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 30, 2017
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Retired Air Force Maj. Shari Zabel receives an award from Col. Scot Spann, 21st Medical Group commander, commemorating June being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender month at The Club, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., June 28, 2017. Zabel served in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years as a Weapons Systems Officer/Electronic Warfare Officer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Robb Lingley)
Col. Scot Spann, 21st Medical Group commander, hosted the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Pride Luncheon at The Club at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., June 28, 2017.
The annual luncheon helps to expand public awareness and understanding of LGBT community.
“As we move forward we’re recognizing everyone’s diversity in serving the United States,” said Spann. “We will not tolerate or discriminate against anyone’s race, religion or sexual orientation for people representing our country.
“Today we have the opportunity to recognize the LGBT community,” Spann added.
Retired Air Force Maj. Shari Zabel was the guest speaker. She served 20 years flying F-4 and F-111 fighters as a weapons systems officer, electronic warfare officer. She’s a combat veteran having served in Iraq and Bosnia-Herzegovina during her career.
“We are witnessing and finding ourselves in an interesting time machine,” said Zabel. “LGBT lives matter. We have always served, and will continue to serve, with pride and dignity.”
Zabel’s last assignment was Wargames deputy director at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. She also served, and retired, from the Department of Defense as North American Aerospace Defense Command, of global force management chief.
“When I was a little kid in Oklahoma I would watch the other kids play on the playground,” Zabel said. “I knew I was different and I had to hide.”
Growing up, this propelled Zabel to become the ultimate man playing baseball, basketball, and football all while growing up on a farm raising cattle and hogs.
Zabel joined the Air Force and Reserve Officers Training Corps after her junior year at Oklahoma State University.
“Over my 20 year military career I flew fighters, traveled the world, became a major, married three times, and helped raise two stepdaughters,” Zabel said.
Zabel remembers the culture shock of joining the Air Force after spending her whole life in Oklahoma and all the culture changes she made while serving overseas.
“I remember how much angst there was when women were first allowed to fly fighters,” Zabel said. “And then it wasn’t a big deal, it had become normal.”
Three years after retiring from the Air Force, Zabel realized what had been haunting her for her whole life. In 2012, she became Shari.
Today Shari currently serves as Springs Equality chief executive officer and Chamber of Commerce for El Paso County lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer center. She’s also an active speaker on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer rights, specializing on Transgender issues, with ONE Colorado and has testified before the Colorado legislature on transgender and LGBTQ issues.
“Eventually,” Shari says, “my goal is to become Senator from the great state of Colorado.”