ROSEMOUNT, Minn. — During her promotion ceremony Stefanie K. Horvath reflected on how acceptance and hard work shaped her nearly 30-year career in the Minnesota Army National Guard.
Her promotion to brigadier general on Tuesday makes Horvath the highest-ranking openly gay woman in the Minnesota National Guard. The Eagan resident was joined in the ceremony at the Rosemount Armory by her wife Christy Starks and their twin daughters Jona and Zoe.
Horvath joined the guard in 1991. She also works as the chief business technology officer for Minnesota Information Technology Services.
Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen recalled that Horvath, a Minot, N.D., native, once told him she came to the Twin Cities because it was a place she felt “she could be the person that she was.”
“Thank you for making that decision and allowing us to share in the person that you are,” Jensen said. “We, the Minnesota National Guard, are a better organization because of you.”
Horvath has been deployed twice, serving in Kosovo from 2003 to 2004 and Iraq from 2009 to 2010 when she was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. She holds a master’s degree from the U.S. Army War College.
Horvath recalled the challenges of being the only woman in her battalion during her first deployment.
“I realized, given the opportunity to serve, my actual presence did not guarantee my acceptance,” she said. But, over time, she earned her fellow soldiers respect by proving she could “run pretty fast,” “fire a weapon” and “most importantly fix their printer issues.”
Later, before gay marriage became legal and during the era in the military of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Horvath said she agonized over telling her superior officer she needed to stay home to care for her now-wife Christy, who had suffered a serious injury.
“Do what you need to do,” Horvath remembers being told. “I was able to take care of Christy because of my boss’s acceptance.”
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, himself a former guard member, was glad to hear about the sense of acceptance that drew Horvath to Minnesota and the Twin Cities. He noted the national reputation of the Minnesota guard and congratulated her on the historic promotion.
“This is an organization that you reach leadership potential based on merit and hard work and you exemplify that,” Walz said.