MTV invited transgender members of the U.S. military to Sunday’s (Aug. 27) Video Music Awards: “Any patriot who is putting their own life at risk to fight for our freedom and stand for equality is a hero at MTV, and to young people everywhere,” MTV president Chris McCarthy said in a statement.
Billboard can confirm that six of these military members will be walking the VMA red carpet, and we spoke to the troops ahead of their appearance at the show.
“It is such an honor and I’m so happy to be able to represent the community of trans service members,” said Akira Wyatt, a sailor in the Navy.
“Our nation stays safe because we have the best and brightest defending it,” added Jennifer Peace, a captain in the Army. “So I hope that people who are watching [the VMAS] see it and think, “Hey, if we’re excluding these individuals who are qualified and capable to serve, and we’re kicking them out — and we’re not filing new people into the service solely based on them being transgender, and not based on their potential, are we as safe as we should be?”
“Historically, the VMAs have been a huge platform for social issues that are currently happening, so being able to have that platform and share our stories is important to us,” said Army veteran Laila Ireland. “We don’t just represent our own stories, we represent all the stories that can’t be told, voices that can’t be heard, and I think it’s very important to share that.”
The soldiers are also excited to brush elbows with their favorite stars: “I’m very passionate about <a href=”/artist/305612/keha/chart”>Kesha</a>. I love her as a person and an artist,” said Sterling Crutcher, an airman in the Air Force.
Meet the six military members walking the red carpet:
Sterling James Crutcher, Air Force Airman First Class
Airman Crutcher currently serves as Munitions technician at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. His first deployment was at Qatar Air Base in 2017 in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. In Qatar, he built munitions that aided in the war against ISIS.
Logan B. Ireland, Air Force Staff Sergeant
Staff Sergeant Ireland currently serves as Base Defense Operations Center Controller (heads the main security command center) at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. He was stationed at Whiteman AFB, Mo., as part of the Security Forces protecting B-2 stealth bombers and nuclear resources, from 2011 to 2014. Deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, from 2014 to 2015 as a lead convoy driver attached to OSI for outside-the-wire counterintelligence missions in support of OEF. Throughout his deployment, he was treated as male in all respects, meeting or exceeding Air Force standards. Since being reassigned to Peterson AFB, he has deployed to Qatar. He was the first service member in the U.S. Armed Forces to have his gender market legally changed, in 2014. He is married to former Army Corporal Laila Villanueva Ireland.
Jennifer Peace, U.S. Army Captain
Captain Peace enlisted in the military in 2005 and completed overseas tours in South Korea and Iraq. She redeployed, commissioned in 2009 as a military intelligence officer, and deployed to Afghanistan with the 4th Infantry Division. Peace began medically transitioning in January 2014 after a reassignment to Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, Wash. As Battalion Intelligence Officer and while on hormone treatment, she deployed on the Pathways to the Pacific mission, a remote exercise in Japan and the jungles of Malaysia. During this time, she was rated No. 1 out of 11 intelligence officers. Peace lives in Spanaway, Wash., with her wife and three children.
Akira Wyatt, Navy Corpsman Petty Officer 3rd Class
Petty Officer Wyatt is currently stationed at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton. She is a Filipino-American who, at age 15, migrated to the United States from Cebu, Philippines. Wyatt enlisted in the United States Navy in May 2011 from Bellevue, Neb. Wyatt trained as a Greenside Corpsman, providing medical support to United States Marines and was assigned to the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton. She deployed with them to Okinawa, Japan, as part of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Deployment. Jointly with Philippines-U.S Amphibious Landing Exercise and while onboard USS Bonhomme Richard, Wyatt participated in shipboard medical and educational training for sailors and marines. Upon completion of her deployment, Wyatt transferred to the 5th Regiment 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines in October 2013. In November 2015, she reported to the Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton 52 Area Branch Clinic alongside School of Infantry Command West. Her primary duties include providing medical and educational needs for Marine Corps instructors/staff and students during operational field exercises and their families.
Laila Ireland, Retired Army veteran
Ireland served as an Army infantryman and later as an Army Medic. She retired after 12 years in the United States Army. She served two combat tours in Iraq and her final duty station was at Tripler Army Medical Center, Hawaii, where she was honorably discharged and medically retired in November 2015. On June 4, 2015, Laila and her then fiance, Logan Ireland, courageously came out as transgender service members by sharing their story in the Emmy-nominated New York Times short film Transgender, at War and in Love. The American Military Partners Association presented Laila with their Military Spouse Leadership Award in 2016, and she is the 2017 Military Spouse of the Year on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.
Brynn Tannehill, Former Navy Lt. Commander
Tannehill graduated from the Naval Academy in 1997. She earned her Naval Aviator wings in 1999 and flew SH-60B helicopters and P-3C maritime patrol aircraft during three deployments between 2000 and 2004. She served as a campaign analyst while deployed overseas to 5th Fleet Headquarters in Bahrain from 2005 to 2006. In 2008, Tannehill earned a M.S. in Operations Research from the Air Force Institute of Technology and transferred from active duty to the Naval Reserves. In 2008, Tannehill began working as a senior defense research scientist in private industry. She left the drilling reserves and began transition in 2010. Since then, she has written for numerous outlets as a blogger and featured columnist. She is a board member of the SPARTA and the Trans United Fund. Tannehill and her wife Janis currently live in Springfield, Va., with their three children.