Army Capt. and Intelligence Officer Jennifer Peace
Eliminating transgender service members wouldn’t just put Peace, 31, out of a job — it would have immediate repercussions on her wife and three kids. “It would be absolutely devastating,” she tells PEOPLE. “We’ve planned our life around military service. We’ve had to for 13 years, between moving across the country, to me going away for a year. Our whole family structure has been predicated on military service.”
Peace says suddenly turning back on the policy the military put in place last year — that allowed transgender service members to serve openly — is harmful to the organization.
“You’ll have people losing trust in the military and leadership, because a year ago the military said, you can serve if you’re transgender, we’ll support you, come out,” Peace points out. “So if thousands of people come out, and then are suddenly removed from the military, how do you feel secure if you’re Muslim, or a woman, or Black, or an atheist? How can you feel safe, because you could be the next group that is announced can no longer serve in the military.”
National Guard Cpt. Jacob Eleazer
Eleazer, 31, couldn’t believe his eyes when he first saw Trump’s tweets. “I thought, this has got to be a hoax of some sort. Somebody was playing with the images. And when I found out that this was actually the case I was pretty floored, to be honest,” he tells PEOPLE.
In between postings during his 11 years with the National Guard, Eleazer has been working on his doctorate in counseling psychology, and was on schedule to graduate in April. But now he’s unsure about his career path, because he had planned to complete his required internship through the armed forces. “I was hoping to go into military psychology, and after this goes through that won’t be an option for me anymore,” Eleazer, who is based in Louisville, Ky., says. “But my worry is for the military leaders, for our junior enlisted folks, for the people who do this full-time. Not only just leaving their career, their income, the support for their families; but losing a part of who they are, their identity and their military family, all at the same time. So a decision like this is devastating.”
For now, Eleazer is going to stay put. “I’m going to keep serving as long as I possibly can, until somebody tells me to stop showing up,” he says. But he says Trump’s decision hurts everyone. “It’s important for us as a military to reflect the diversity of the nation that we serve.”
Logan and Laila Ireland, who are both transgender, are putting their plans to build a family on hold because of Trump’s announcement.
“For now, all of that is put on the back burner, because we have to take care of ourselves first before we can even raise a family,” Laila, 31, tells PEOPLE.
For the couple, who wed in May 2016, “it doesn’t just affect our career, it affects everything else in our lives. We can’t necessarily look forward and plan if we don’t know what our foundation looks like.”
Logan, who was away at training when he heard the news, told PEOPLE that he would “love” to chat with Trump about the affects of his proposal.
“For the President to deny an able-bodied, fully qualified person the inherent right to raise their right hand and serve their country, potentially giving their own life for our freedoms, is doing this country an injustice,” Logan, 29, said.
Staff Sgt. Trish King
As the first openly transgender woman in infantry, King says it will take a lot more than a few tweets to discourage her.
“When the military decided to lift the ban on trans service members, they did so with the belief that the only thing that should stop a person from serving is whether or not they can perform their duties — I don’t think that the tweets made me feel fooled,” the 36-year-old tells PEOPLE.
Still, the mom of two says she and her colleagues are looking for clarification, as they come together in the wake of the news.
“In the transgender military community there’s been a banding together and a minor fear as we wait to see what happens,” she says. “But in the military community at large, we continue to serve.”
King adds: “I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I know that I intend to continue to serve my country and I hope that I get to continue to serve for a very long time.”
Army Drill Sgt. Ken Ochoa
The future of military service members has been left hanging in the balance since Trump’s attention-grabbing tweet storm. But for Ochoa, business will continue on as usual until direct orders are given.
“I am going to continue to do my job to the best of my absolute possible ability,” he tells PEOPLE. “And try to be the best at doing it. Until I am told, ‘You are not going to be able to serve anymore,’ I am going to continue to serve.”
And serving in the military is an important part of the 27-year-old soldier’s life.
“It means being a part of something much bigger than myself, a small puzzle piece in a very large picture,” he says.
Navy SEAL Kristin Beck
Kristin Beck felt like the rug has been pulled from under the military trans community a little more than a year after the Pentagon lifted a ban on their service.
“Transgender people are some of the most patriotic people in the county,” Beck tells PEOPLE. “We value our liberties because we know what it means not to have it.”
Beck, a member of SEAL Team 6, retired from the Navy SEALS in 2011 with a Purple Heart. But despite no longer being an active service member, the 51-year-old isn’t keeping quiet about the plight of those still serving.
“The issue was addressed last year,” she says. “People were told, ‘Here’s what we can do, you’re protected. We value you as a soldier, sailor, airman, Marine. Okay, you’re transgender. We don’t care.’ Now all that is taken away? No matter what you were told before, it’s changed now? What’s going to happen to all those people?”
Navy Lt. Cdr. Blake Dremann
Dremann’s was shocked and concerned for his job when he learned of the ban, but he had to quickly push those feelings aside and put on a brave face as the president of SPART*A, an LGBT military group.
“I knew I had to rally my own troops to help them remain calm in this time of uncertainty,” Dremann, 36, tells PEOPLE.
Dremann has been out since 2015, and never had an issue. “Nothing really changed other than my name and pronouns. I continued doing my job,” he says. So he doesn’t see how trans military members could be an issue.
“We’ve long been woven into the fabric of the military,” Dremann says. “We’ve probably served in every capacity that the military has to offer. This will only harden our resolve to continue to contribute to the mission and the mentality of the military.”