Members Of The U.S. Military You Need To Remember On The Anniversary Of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

Two years ago today, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was repealed allowing gay and lesbian members of the military to serve openly. These are the individuals we have to thank.

1. Sergeant Leonard Matlovich: The first gay service member to out himself purposefully in order to fight the military’s ban on openly gay military personnel.

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A Vietnam War veteran, he was a recipient of the Purple heart and the Bronze Star.

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His first television interview following his public coming out:

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2. Major Margaret Witt: Filed suit in 2008 with the U.S. District Court in Witt V. Department Of The Air Force after her discharge.


She was an active major in the U.S. Air Force when she was put under investigation for homosexuality in 2006. The following year, she was ordered an honorable discharge.

Dismissed by the district court, the case was heard on appeal and the Ninth Circuit issued its ruling on May 21, 2008. Two years later, District Judge Ronald B. Leighton ruled that due to Witt’s constitutional rights being violated she must be reinstated to the Air Force.

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In a settlement announced in May of 2011, the Air Force agreed to drop its appeal and remove the discharge from her military record.

She will now retire with full benefits.

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3. Lt. Daniel Choi: Came out on The Rachel Maddow Show in March of 2009 — received a discharge letter shortly after.

A former American infantry officer in the United States Army, Choi served as an infantry office in Iraq from 2006-2007. He participated in many acts of protest, including two self-chaining protests on the White House fence and a hunger strike.

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Choi wrote an open letter to President Barack Obama and the United States Congress. In the letter, he wrote:

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Following the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Choi attended President Obama’s signing of the bill.

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4. Sgt. Darren Manzella: Outed himself publicly on 60 Minutes in 2007, leading to his own discharge six months later.

Former Army medic, serving in both Iraq and Kuwait.

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Following the repeal of DADT, Manzella enlisted in the New York Army National Guard and was promoted and awarded for his meritorious service

He joined the reserves shortly before his death in 2013.

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5. Gen. Tammy Smith: Became the first general officer to come out as gay while serving when she was promoted to Brigadier General, US Army Reserve.

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Her stars were pinned to her uniform by her Father, Jack Smith, Sr., and her wife Tracey Hepner.

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6. Lt. Josh Seefried: Acted under a pseudonym during his campaign to end the discrimination against LGBT individuals serving openly.

On the eve of repeal, Josh revealed his identity after two years of hiding behind a pseudonym for Outserve.

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7. Senior Airman Randy Phillips: Came out to his father a few days after DADT was repealed, in what became an instant YouTube viral video.

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Thanks to the actions of these individuals, and countless others, we get to see military men and women serve openly and proudly:

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Navy servicewomen Marissa Gaeta and Citlalic Snell:

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Sean Sutton, left, greets his boyfriend of 2 years, U.S. Navy sailor Jonathan Jewell, E5, with a kiss after Jewell returned from a seven month deployment:

Joe Dyer / AP
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Two women, both active duty sailors in the Navy who gave their names as Nikki, left, and Lisa, kiss as they march in the Gay Pride Parade in San Diego:

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US Marine Brandon Morgan posted this photo of him and his boyfriend:

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USMC Captain Matthew Phelps and his new fiancé Ben Schock during their shocking White House proposal.

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Kathryn Trammel with her wife Pam in Okinawa, Japan with a military ID — receiving all of the same benefits spouses of straight service members are permitted.

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U.S. Navy Lt. Gary Ross marries Dan Swezy, becoming the first active member of the U.S. military to legally marry a same-sex partner:

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Sgt. Bryan Eberly, who serves openly, with a special parting gift from his unit:

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Even two years after the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the U.S. military is still not completely equal and open for all those in active duty.

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Transgender soldiers are still unable to serve openly and can be discharged without voluntary disclosure.

From Kristen Beck becoming the first Navy SEAL to come out as trans, to the announcement by Chelsea Manning that she also is trans — trans military issues have received more attention than ever before.

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Learn more about trans individuals serving in the military.

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Sarah Karlan is the Deputy LGBT Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Sarah Karlan at
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