Surrounded by friends, Tech. Sgt. Jamie Hash stood next to the U.S. flag and raised her right hand, prepared to commit to another six years of military service.
It was a decision she didn’t make lightly.
Before that moment, Hash had been forced three times to consider her future in the Air Force, a career that matters to her deeply after seven years of service.
The first time was in late fall 2016 when she was torn between the prospect of separating or coming out as transgender.
She chose to disclose her gender identity, a decision that made her among the first service members allowed to transition without fear of retribution.
The second time was in July 2017 after President Donald Trump announced his intention to ban trans people from military service and revoke the policy that had allowed Hash to transition.
How his proclamation would be implemented was in question, but Hash resolved to carry out her duties to the best of her ability despite not knowing what lay ahead.
The third came this year as Hash, 31, approached the end of her service commitment.
In March, the defense secretary had released his recommendations for trans service members based on the president’s directive: Individuals who had begun to transition under the previous policy could continue to serve openly, but new trans recruits would be barred from service, and active-duty service members no longer could transition while in uniform.
The new policy remains embroiled in the courts, but if the administration prevails, Hash would become part of what she called “a small, finite group of service members” allowed to openly serve.
In October, she learned she had received an assignment that would start in August 2019 in England, where she would advise Wing leadership on resource utilization, including deployment planning, performance improvements and readiness. She submitted her re-enlistment papers quickly and secured approval to hold her ceremony Nov. 15.
“I feel that it’s critical I continue to serve for those who cannot,” Hash said, and she would do so no matter what the courts decided.
Some have asked her why she did not separate from the Air Force, given the scrutiny and uncertainty.
“I tell them that if no more transgender people are able to join the military, I will have the rare privilege and opportunity to continue proving transgender people are more than capable of answering our nation’s call,” Hash said.
In the year and a half since the trans military ban announcement, Hash has been promoted from staff sergeant to technical sergeant, named military Volunteer of the Year for the joint base and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year for her squadron and field operating agency and nominated for other awards.
After Hash started transitioning, she became an ambassador of sorts to military personnel in San Antonio by helping educate them about being trans.
She was thrust into that role even moreso after the ban was announced. She said she’s often told by other service members that she is the first trans person they ever have met and that she has changed their preconceived notions.
Hash made plans to hold her re-enlistment ceremony at a time and place that was symbolic of the “rebirth” she’d undergone while stationed as a manpower analyst at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph.
That date fell during Transgender Awareness Week and shortly before Transgender Day of Remembrance, which commemorates trans people killed in the previous year.
Hash picked Luther’s Cafe, adjacent to the rainbow crosswalks on The Strip, home to many of San Antonio’s LGBTQ-friendly bars and restaurants.
Her previous re-enlistment ceremony took place during a deployment in Southwest Asia, where she was working as an aircraft armament technician as part of a joint coalition fighting ISIS.
Hash, who had not yet come out, had helped load munitions onto a fighter jet and, upon its return, recited the re-enlistment oath to the pilot.
This time, Hash was joined by her partner, her dog and several close friends. They gathered on the patio, with Bacchus tethered by a rainbow leash to the leg of a table.
Danny Ingram, a friend who was discharged from the Army for being gay in 1994 under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” helped unfurl a U.S. flag with Hash’s colleague, Staff Sgt. Chelsea Serviss. Hash faced Capt. Dawnisha Peagler, her former flight commander, who administered the oath.
Both grinned as they reached the end. They saluted and hugged, then friends broke into applause.
“I feel like I’m able to continue serving my country and doing the thing that I love the most, but also being visible and open, compared to my first re-enlistment, is a big deal for me,” Hash said after the ceremony.
Hash’s partner, Emily Gerson, beamed nearby. Gerson, who will move with Hash to the Cambridge area next year, said she had been somewhat skeptical when they discussed re-enlistment because of the uncertainty now associated with trans service.
The conversation, however, always came back to the fact that Hash’s service was not just about her, Gerson said.
“I’m really proud of her. ... To see her be under this level of scrutiny in this current climate and to keep going and persisting, I think it takes an incredible amount of bravery,” Gerson said.
Leaving San Antonio will be “very bittersweet,” Hash said. She’s grown attached to the city where she had accepted herself.
One day, she knows she’ll be back.