A billboard advertisement in Memphis featuring a former US marine and the tagline “I’m gay and I protected your freedom” has been torn down by vandals.

The ad was part of a series of five put up by Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Centre (MGLCC) as part of National Coming Out Day, in which gays and lesbians are encouraged to tell someone about their sexuality.

According to reports, the poster was completely removed on Friday night.

It featured Tim Smith, a former US marine, in full uniform.

Police have not said whether they have any suspects in custody.

Heidi Williams, the presudent of MGLCC, told WMC-TV: “I know that they intended to silence us with hate. However, we are choosing to unite and come over that with a stronger voice, and a message that we are here – and we deserve equality as well as everyone else.”

The organisation is urging police to conduct a full investigation and is planning to hold a rally next weekend over the incident.

Nation Coming Out Day takes place on October 11th.