First Marine Wounded in Iraq Comes Out of the Closet
Calls for Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Staff Sgt. Eric Alva, who was the first Marine seriously wounded in the war with Iraq, will come out of the closet today, standing by Rep. Marty Meehan, D-Mass and a bipartisan congressional group at 2pm as they introduce legislation calling for the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

AlvaAlva lost his leg serving for the United States, ABC News has his story:

“Alva…was a decorated staff sergeant who had served in Somalia and Japan. As troops began to push into Iraq, on March 21, 2003, Alva was leading 11 Marines among 75 or so sailors and Marines in a 50- to 55-vehicle convoy on its way from the desert in Kuwait to Basra, Iraq. It was a logistical convoy moving through the desert at night, lights out, night-vision goggles on. The sand was so kicked up it was nearly impossible for Alva to even keep track of the vehicle in front of him. At one of three stops along the way, Alva, who hadn’t eaten for a full day, was heating up an MRE when he went to get something out of his Humvee. ‘I took maybe a step or two,’ Alva said, ‘and that is when the explosion went off.’ It was a land mine.”

Alva was visited at Bethesda Naval Hospital by President George W. Bush, first lady Laura Bush, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Donald Rumsfeld, and Michael Jordan.

None of them knew he was gay.

Although he kept it a secret from his commanding officers over the years, Alva says plenty of soldiers knew he was gay and it was never a problem:

“I told tons of people. A lot of my friends, my buddies, my closest Marines, people I had served in combat with. Straight guys, married, with children and everything, three of them which I have become their sons’ godfather now. Everybody was just respectful and was just like ordinary. ‘That’s it? That’s your big news?’ Being on the front lines and serving with the people who even actually knew that I was gay, you know, that was never a factor. We were there to do a job. We were [there] to do a mission. I don’t think people would have a hard time with it because they know that the person right next to them is going to be there to protect them, in our terms, ‘have their back.'”

It’s long past time for this policy to go. Thank you, Eric Alva, for coming out.

‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Revisited [abc news]
Video [abc news]

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Rep. Marty Meehan (D-MA) to Reintroduce Legislation Calling for the Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” [tr]


  1. Da says

    I’m impressed by the reaction of his Marines entourage.

    It’s so bizarre how homophobia seems so prevalent in society and its institutions, yet people’s personal accounts of coming out (generally) contradicts that.

  2. sam says

    DA/DT was never based in reality and there was never any threat to mission readiness. That was all just cover. The Pentagon is a profoundly conservative institution full of Washington Times reading far right stiffs who feel completely self righteous in their bigotry. They think soldiers have a right to hate gays, and that right must be preserved. I used to be in the Army assigned there and I can tell you that it’s another universe, completely out of touch with civilian America, and completely out of touch with the world of enlisted soldiers in the field.

    If Congress passes a repeal of DA/DT, and I doubt they have the resolve, the Pentagon will resent it and Bush will surely veto it.

  3. Brian says

    What a great story. Good for him that he’s coming out. We need more honest and courageous guys like that.

    And I loved the radioactive rainbow comment. Pure gold. I’d say I agreed, but Eric Alva could kick my ass.

  4. PC says

    It’s not a clear-cut issue on whether gays should openly serve in the military.

    I mean, I can see the point of view that it might be a distraction for, say, homophobes who might gang up on and taunt, bully and assault gays. Think: Tim Hardaway. Think: Isaiah Washington. Or, on a more relevant note, think: Abu Ghraib (in terms of the behaviour these soldiers are capable of).

    I’m gay, but I wouldn’t come out in my place of work because (a) it’s not relevant and (b) it’s nobody’s business. So why would gays want to risk making it harder on themselves, in Iraq, of all places!? Since when is sexuality relevant in a war?

    Focus on the mission at hand, people.

  5. Bill says

    If I had to, I would probably be able to carry a gun and defend what needed to be defended, but I cannot truly understand the military mind, or what prompts a person to want to continually place himslef in jeopardy. I’m glad there are those kind around us, though. Anyway, Mr. Alva, who has already demonstrated himself to be able to act in a heroic manner as a soldier, has now demonstrated he is capable of being another kind of hero to so many of us gays. We owe many thanks to him, and it doesn’t hurt that he is fine looking man in uniform.

  6. John says

    Any ban on gay people in the military is based on irrational prejudice. Gay people seem to be the last demographic group some people think its okay to hate on. Acceptance of gay people in the military could accelerate the acceptance of gay people in the wider society and help to eradicate prejudice. I wish gay civil rights organizations were more on this. Now is a time for pressure, however gentle.

  7. says

    Being forced to stay in the closet, whether it’s in the military or on an assemblyline or in an accounting firm is nothing more than a reinforcement that gay is wrong. The harm it does is FAR worse than igniting homophobia. Bigots need to be exposed more than gays need to stay quiet about who they are. DA/DT gives permission for homophobes to keep hating and relegating gays to 2nd-class citizenry. When are people going to finally get that???

  8. mark m says

    “So why would gays want to risk making it harder on themselves, in Iraq, of all places!? Since when is sexuality relevant in a war?”

    Since when is race relevant to war? Since when is gender relevant to war? And yet our Armed Services allow women, blacks, asians, arabs, anyone to enter… anyone but gay men and women.

    You certainly have the right to keep your sexuality secret at work, but that is your choice. If your company had a strict NO GAYS policy, then that would be discrimination (regardless of the current law).

    I’m so tired of closet cases lending credence to the myth that being gay is only about what sexual acts take place in private. I define being gay by who I have chosen to share my life with, not where I put my dick.

    If that’s something you feel ashamed or scared to share with just anyone, fine, but don’t pretend that the military’s DADT is ok because you choose to lie.

  9. Ernie says

    “I’m gay, but I wouldn’t come out in my place of work because (a) it’s not relevant and (b) it’s nobody’s business. So why would gays want to risk making it harder on themselves, in Iraq, of all places!? Since when is sexuality relevant in a war?”

    What? How many straight people do you know who aren’t out at work? Sexuality isn’t just about who you have sex with, it’s a core part of one’s being, it’s about family. Sexuality doesn’t just disappear when you’re in an office, or overseas in a war. Gay people shouldn’t have to be any more secretive about their sexuality than straight people, period.

  10. John C says

    Most (all?) European forces have openly gay soldiers now; the Pentagon has no argument whatever. If it’s not about homophobia then the implication is that US forces are weaker than European ones since they aren’t able to cope with a simple thing like different sexuality in their midst. Which one is it, generals?

  11. Tom V says

    The arguement that the ban on gays and lesbians is a national security issue is nonsense. I have served twenty years in the Air National Guard and was recently activated for two years during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. I was outed by my ex-wife during a national security review. Only because I was well informed by the Serviceman’s Legal Defense Network was I prepared to deal with my interview. At the conclusion of the interview the interviewer said, “This is the first time I’ve encountered this issue but you had all the right answers.” I would be still serving and be a Colonel today had I not been injured and become sick during my mobilization. My biggest battle these days is getting the government to accept responsibility for my injuries and my recently diagnosed Gulf War Syndrome. The issue of service members serving not being able to serve openly while preserving national security is silly. The effort taken by commanders, unit leaders and the service members themselves in maintaining this broken policy is unbelievable. Maybe the congress, senate and president should spend more time, money and effort on taking care of the injured and ill troops when they return from serving honorably rather than supporting such a broken and impossible policy.

  12. Steve Zielke says

    I support Sgt. Alva and his comments.
    The Marines,Army,and Navy have so many gay men and women fighting in this ridiculous war it isnt funny.
    The problem is they all havent ALL come out.
    And there isnt a need to,..if the person doesnt want to. GAY Americans can do just as good a job serving as any other AMERICAN.
    Let’ all get REAL.


  13. the ROG says

    I am a gay soldier, on active duty, serving in Germany with the 1st Armored Division. I am proud of the fact that I have served one tour in Iraq and have another coming on the horizon.

    In regards to my sexuality, I dont go to great lengths to cover it up but I also dont try too hard to hide it. I’m just myself. When I first enlisted I was more open about it but I have started pretending to be straight when I go out with my straight buddies, even though they know good and well that I am gay as ****. I do that straight game not because I “have to” but because, well, its kinda fun for me. It makes them laugh and we all have a great time seeing me try and mack on a chick that they know good and well I dont really want.

    I have the highest respect for SSG Alva, and commend him for coming out. I also plan to do the same thing should something happen to me. I have even made arrangements for a press release regarding my sexual preference and military service in the event that I dont make it home. For now I think I am able to do more for Gay Rights in the Military by working on the inside; but once my contract is completed I intend to come out and do everything I can to get the discriminatory laws repealled.

    I am in a long-term relationship with a German national at this time, we have been together for a year and a half. He has a very serious medical condition however and I worry about him constantly while I am deployed. Imagine what I would go through if he had an attack, and was hospitalized? Or died? There is no policy that would allow me to take emergency leave from the combat zone to be with my partner. If however I was married, and heterosexual, then I could. The same works in reverse, in the event that I am mortally wounded in combat the Army would notify my next of kin–my family. If I were married, it would be my wife. Thats if I were heterosexual. But since I am gay and my partner is not officially recognized nor is our relationship recognized or honored by the military, my partner would likely be either last to know or perhaps may never know. Can you imagine the stress that puts on both of us when I am deployed?

    Please, do all you can to live a good example as a functional productive citizen and member of society, as I do in the military, just I am living proof that homosexuals CAN and DO serve our country, you can do the same. Society has these preconceived notions that gays are perverts and more burden on society. We must live our lives in a way that proves them wrong.

    I pay taxes, I go to work everyday, I pay my bills, I send money home even to help my family, I am no different than the heterosexuals except what I like to do in private. Why cant the rest of the world understand that? Why is my sex habits any of thier business? My sex ISN’T but my love life is, when we are talking about life in the military.

    Please contact your congressional and senate representatives and lobby for the repeal of the Discriminatory Policies of the US Military.

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