To be proud to serve and proud to be gay are feelings some soldiers have never been able to admit, until now.
"We both had to put on a persona that we were straight. It was always something to hide," said veteran Lauren Russell.
Army veteran Lauren Russell remembers hiding her lesbian identity and relationship for the three years she was in uniform. Russel says she and other gay soldiers feared verbal abuse, beatings, or getting discharged.
"It was scary that you could be kicked out," said Russell.
To stay under Army radar, Russel married a gay male soldier to move into a house off base, a place she says she could live more freely in private.
"I had to pretend to be married and pretend to be straight," said Russell.
Army veterans at local VFW posts said gays and lesbians wear the same dog tags, carry the same veteran cards and should have the same rights.
"They fight for our country, believe in our flag and the United States of America," said Vietnam veteran Buddy Kott.
"If they are wiling to protect this country, they should have the same rights," said veteran Susan Neveau.
A few local veterans worry that openly gay soldiers could create some friction and inefficiencies within a military unit.
"Change is hard for some people to accept," said VFW vice commander Clayton Rapier.
But most agree with the LGBT community that equal rights is a step in the right direction.
"If I was getting into the military I'd be excited. It's about time, is what it is," said Russell.
"It is recognition. It means we have accomplished a goal we've had for a long time," said Penny Gardner, president of Lansing Association for Human Rights.
The LGBTcommunity hopes the new bill will lead to more understanding and equality. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law next week.