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Panetta thanks gay troops, says diversity is US strength

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta issued a video message to gays in the military Friday morning as the Pentagon plans a first-of-its-kind event to mark Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride month.

Panetta said in the video to gay troops that he was proud of how the military has implemented the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

“Before the repeal of 'Don't ask, don't tell,' you faithfully served your country with professionalism and courage. And just like your fellow service members, you put your country before yourself,” Panetta says in the video.

“And now, after repeal, you can be proud of serving your country, and be proud of who you are when in uniform,” he said.

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The military last year ended the "Don't ask" policy, which barred gay and lesbian soldiers from serving openly, after Congress repealed it in 2010.

The Pentagon said on Thursday that it was planning its first event later this month to honor LGBT Pride month, though the details still needed to be finalized.

Panetta said he was “committed to removing as many barriers as possible” in the military to allow everyone an opportunity to serve.

“Diversity is one of our greatest strengths,” Panetta said. “During Pride month — and every month — let us celebrate our rich diversity and renew our enduring commitment to equality for all.”