Out former marine goes to Congress to fight "don't ask, don't tell"

Eric Alva, the first American wounded in the Iraq War, has since come out and is working now to lift the ban on openly gay service members in the U.S. military.

BY admin

March 01 2007 1:00 AM ET

The first
American soldier wounded in the Iraq War has since come out
and is working now to lift the ban on openly gay
service members in the U.S. military. Retired marine
staff sergeant Eric Alva on Wednesday accompanied
Democratic representative Martin Meehan of
Massachusetts and a bipartisan group of
representatives to Capitol Hill to reintroduce the
Military Readiness Enhancement Act, legislation
that would repeal the Pentagon's "don't ask,
don't tell" policy regarding gay service members.

Alva, who grew up
in a military family, lost a leg on the first day of
combat in Iraq in 2003 after stepping on a land mine. He
told ABC News that losing his leg forced him to come
out of the closet. "It made me realize everything that
I had to actually speak up for," Alva said to ABC,
"basically, the rights and privileges of what I as an
individual have earned in this country."

In an interview
with The
Washington Post, Alva said that his becoming
vocal about striking down "don't ask, don't tell" is also
due to the fact that there are not enough service
members to keep up a successful war effort.

“We're
losing probably thousands of men and women that are skilled
at certain types of jobs, from air traffic controllers
to linguists, because of this broken policy,”
he told the Post.

The Pentagon has
argued that the ban was enacted for the sake
of maintaining unit cohesion.

The
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an advocacy group for
gay service personnel, released data Wednesday
showing that in 2005 the armed forces dismissed more
than 742 service members, including medics,
intelligence officers, infantrymen, and seven nuclear,
biological, and chemical warfare specialists. Since
the law’s implementation in 1993, more than
11,000 military personnel have been dismissed.

A Zogby poll
released in December showed that 23% of U.S. troops say they
know someone in their unit who is gay or lesbian. (The
Advocate
)

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