On this ANZAC day, 100 years since the Gallipoli landing, we are proud to acknowledge that recently one of the founding members of Overwatch has received an Air Force Commendation for his work with the Defence Force’s LGBTI group.
Corporal Hemi Frires was recognised for consistently demonstrating the Defence Force values of courage, comradeship and commitment in his support of LGBTI peers, and their commanders, managers and families.
Coming out in the Defence Force was not an easy personal moment for Frires, who was secretary at Overwatch, a support group for GLBTIQ (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning) personnel.
But he said the Defence Force was supportive and he had always been treated just like anyone else.
The Commendation was awarded to Corporal Frires by the Chief of Air Force of the Royal New Zealand Air Force(RNZAF), Air Vice Marshal Mike Yardley.
The Chief of Air Force commendation is awarded to all ranks and civilian employees of the RNZAF for outstanding zeal and devotion to duty
Hemi Frires spoke with Eikon and said; “I’m very proud to be awarded the commendation by the Chief of Air Force, and particularly that the work that we have done in the GLTBIQ support space is so appreciated and valued by the head of the organisation.”
“Overwatch has taken a lot of work and effort, but it is all worthwhile to think that it is a valued initiative and that it may make life easier for GLBTIQ people in Defence.”
The citation for Corporal Frires spoke about his enlistment in the RNZAF, and his work to establish a peer support and networking group for the NZDF GLBTI community. It talked about Overwatch getting established, and his volunteering to be the groups deputy chair.
“It’s the possibility that the support we’ve developed might make a world of difference to a soldier, sailor, airman or Defence civilian that keeps me motivated.
“That is only helped by the fantastic people who also are involved in Overwatch, and working part of a team of people so passionate about making the NZDF a more inclusive and supportive place is a really empowering place to be.”
The Commendation also explained Corporal Frires’ involvement in a GLBT youth group in the Manawatu and that he is a role model to others, and demonstrates the courage and core values one would expect in any leader.”
Eikon salutes Corporal Frires and all of the defence force members for their tireless efforts and dedication to keeping our nation and nations around the world safe.