Soldier Defends Caitlyn Jenner Amid ESPY Criticism

by Tracy Dye

There was nary a dry eye in the house when Caitlyn Jenner accepted the prestigious honor of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2015 ESPY Awards on Wednesday, July 15. Jenner's poignant speech and heartfelt thanks proved that she continues to be one of the most inspirational figures currently in the public eye, and she looked like a total stunning badass the whole time. She has offered a voice to so many who may still feel voiceless in the transgender community. Although many considered the night to be one of great triumph and celebration, some did not take kindly to Jenner being this year's recipient. Several who felt that members of the military community, as well as the late college basketball player, Lauren Hill — who tragically passed away from cancer earlier this year — were more deserving of the award took to social media to voice their ire over Jenner's win. Some posts were that of curt exasperation, while some were more damaging and ridden with derogatory terms that are sad to see still circulating across the Internet. It's a terrible sight to see, making the fact that one soldier stood up for her all the more inspiring.

Joey Vicente, who serves as a behavioral health specialist in the army, had clearly had enough of the vitriol when he posted a note to his Facebook defending Jenner and chastising those critical of her being this year's ESPY Awards recipient:

Despite the note's initial privacy (Vicente only shared it with friends on his Facebook wall), the post ended up going viral. In response to questions about the now famous status, Vicente told BuzzFeed News, "Bigotry in any form is unacceptable and I guess I was just fed up with seeing people’s offensive remarks about a person they know nothing about...I joined the service and picked my job because I love helping people. I love positivity and I love my country.”

Both Jenner's brave speech and Vicente's words make one unifying statement that is truly inspirational — the term "hero" is inclusive. Deftly noting in his post that "40 percent of the transgender community have attempted suicide," (a stat backed up by the Los Angeles Times ) and that Jenner's speech during the ESPY Awards could have "saved even one human being from taking their life" reminds us of how groundbreaking Jenner's choice to come out as a transgender woman truly is, and how deserving she is of any award that bears the title "courage." This is not to negate the bravery and heroism that is displayed by soldiers, or by the legions of everyday heroes we encounter at work, in school, and throughout various facets of our lives. Rather, Jenner's speech and Vicente's post teaches us that heroism is able to be displayed through several different trajectories. There are many lessons we can all learn about heroism from both Jenner and Vicente's thoughts.

Heroism Is Inclusive

There is no occupation, or course, or title that makes one a hero and another not. Anyone can and deserves the opportunity to be called a hero.

Heroes Don't Have To Be Perfect

Throughout her journey, we have heard Jenner speak on how crippling the fear and anxiety became before accepting her authentic self. Accepting yourself and making the choice to inspire others with that acceptance is terrifying, but the relief and influence that can come from such acceptance can help others on a grand scale, and change lives.

Heroes Practice Kindness & Compassion

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While so many positive progressions can be nearly dismantled by the ire and negativity of those in opposition, true acts of heroism like those with Jenner and Vicente teach us to practice kindness and compassion toward others — and also ourselves.

There Is Always More Work To Be Done

Even with the monumental progress that has been made in such a short time, there is much more work to be done in providing outlets and understanding for those in the transgender — and many other — communities.

Heroes Are Lifelong Learners

Jenner has proven herself to be a lifelong learner and one who continues to educate herself and others to — as she puts it — "reshape the landscape of how trans issues are viewed." It looks like she is well on her way.

Heroes Don't Allow Negativity To Hamper Their Cause

Jenner has been given her fair share of adversity, but continues to inspire us with her focus on the exponential outpouring of — very well-deserved — love and support. In response to why he posted the supportive status to his Facebook, Vicente told BuzzFeed News, "I posted what I posted because it's what I feel."

Both Jenner and Vicente deserve numerous accolades for their courage and inspiration.

Images: Getty Images (2); Giphy (4)