Current Affairs

Gay soldiers speak out from the front line

PinkNews Staff Writer June 20, 2007
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The Advocate, an award-winning gay magazine, features groundbreaking interviews in its latest issue with gay, active service members, inside a war-zone, speaking on record for the first time under the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.

In these interviews soldiers discuss the challenges of living under the policy, while fully acknowledging the enormous risk speaking out could bring to their military careers.

In the article soldiers refute the most commonly used argument to support Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Openly gay soldiers would undermine the morale and cohesion of a military unit.

“I will take whatever consequences this article comes with, whether I do get discharged or I am kept in the Army,” said Army private Karissa Urmanita, currently stationed in Iraq. “I want my story out.”

Army sergeant Darren Manzella, on his second deployment in the Middle East, told the magazine he “would’ve come out sooner” had he known the positive reception he would receive from his unit.

“There was some uncomfortable feelings among some of the males,” says Manzella, “but the majority showed no hostility or ill feelings.”

Anne Stockwell, editor of The Advocate, applauds the soldiers for coming forward, and invites more readers to “reconsider the hypocrisy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Stockwell notes: “By speaking out, at risk to their own careers, these soldiers personify the bravery and integrity of the gay men and women who serve our country.

“We know that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is founded on old and outdated fears. Many gay soldiers are currently living openly inside the ranks alongside, and with the support of, their fellow soldiers, so who is this policy serving?”

The Advocate also interviewed former Marine Staff Sergeant Eric Alva, who lost his right leg after stepping on a land mine in Iraq in 2003.

He was the first seriously wounded Marine in the war and was awarded the Purple Heart for his service and sacrifice.

Earlier this year, Alva came out on Good Morning America and spoke out against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

In the article Alva acknowledges his conflicted feelings about his experience in the military saying,

“I’ve paid a huge sacrifice.” However he goes on to say, “I never blamed the Marine Corps. Once a marine, always a marine.”

In addition, under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy a gay soldier cannot list his or her partner as next of kin.

The Advocate spoke to Marine Captain Julianne Sohn about the difficulties she faced contacting her partner, Francesca Pisa, regarding her safety after a suicide bomber attacked a mostly female convoy at a nearby checkpoint.

© 2007; All Rights Reserved.

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