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Keeping up the fight

I was in the Middle East this time two years ago, serving my second tour of duty in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Two years ago I was a proud Army soldier and knew that I was part of the best military in the world. Two years ago I had the opportunity to speak out on behalf of all LGBT men and women in uniform and discuss how “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” hurts our service members. Two years ago I hoped that I could continue serving my country as an openly gay soldier and that we would soon see the demise of DADT.

On December 16, 2007, I was featured on 60 Minutes and discussed what it was like to serve as an openly gay man in the U.S. Army. I explained how I was retained by my commander even though he and my peers knew I was gay. For more than a year and a half, including a deployment to Iraq and Kuwait, I was retained and promoted to the position of Division Medical Liaison Officer. Because I was overseas at the time of the broadcast I was not even able to watch the segment on television. I watched the interview on DVR upon my return.

Though I was aware that such a public appearance could lead to the end of my military career, I agreed to the interview because as an American soldier I believed in the Army CoreValues including respect, selfless service, honor and integrity. I was proud of myself and my achievements, I was proud of my brothers and sisters-in-arms, and I was proud of my country.

After the program aired my unit returned to the U.S. Months passed and I held high hopes that it was a turning point for unit commanders to retain skilled and qualified service members, regardless of sexual orientation. However, one day I was called in to company headquarters and told that I was being recommended for separation due to my appearance on 60 Minutes. Disappointed but not entirely surprised, I was somewhat confused at my unit’s move to separate me after they knew I was gay but retained me for more than 18 months. I received my Honorable Discharge on June 10, 2008. Reason for separation read: “Homosexual Conduct (Admission).”

As a casualty of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and a civilian once again, I moved to Washington, D.C., to join SLDN and fight for repeal of DADT. I had the opportunity to attend the first congressional hearing on DADT. I met hundreds of men and women across the country who were unjustly discharged from the military, not because of disciplinary action or medical conditions but merely because of their sexual orientation. I educated legislators and staff about why this outdated law needs to be repealed.

Two years later, I am still fighting alongside SLDN and LGBT veterans.