Paige Morgan Laisch, 44, looks back on her days as 18-year-old Pete Laisch, serving in the Marine Corps in 1989, well before the phenomenon of being transgender was even talked about.
"Back then I questioned my gender identity very much and that was something that I had to keep hidden very much," Laisch said. "Back then we didn't have the internet so, there wasn't even a place for me to go even look for questions answers, something very much had to keep closeted within myself."
Following the Pentagon's historic announcement that transgender men and women can now serve openly in the U.S. Military, Laisch says it's a decision that's long overdue. "I was overwhelmed," Laisch said. "I was excited because as a transgender veteran that was a sense of relief."
Laisch, now a 44-year-old transgender woman, finished her service in 1993 and transitioned in 2011. She says as young person serving in the Marines and struggling with gender identity she looks forward to the next generation moving past the obstacles that she faced.
"The wide acceptance first of all, and then the fact that for our younger generations, just because you are transgender does not mean that you cannot go into these area of opportunity, it's a great start," said Laisch.
Under the new policy, transgender troops already serving can begin receiving medical care and changing their names on October 1. In a year transgender men and women can begin enlisting, as long as they've been stable in their gender identity for 18 months.