It was a little over a year ago that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that prohibited gay and lesbian individuals in the military from being open about their sexual orientation came to an end.
For Dan Choi, a former lieutenant in the U.S. Army infantry who was discharged honorably in 2010 after he went public with his sexual orientation, the repeal was about a year too late.
Choi has since been the subject of national attention for continuous demonstration of opposition to the policy, including arrests for chaining himself to the White House fence.
Though prosecution for that protest is continuing in federal court, he delivered the keynote speech of Queer History Month at LaSells Stewart Center on the Oregon State University campus Wednesday night.
Rylan Wall, internal coordinator at the OSU Pride Center, which sponsors Queer History Month activities, said the audience would learn a lot from Choi’s presentation.
“It’s a great inside look for everyone to see other discriminatory policies,” Wall said. “We think it’s important for folks to be aware that those policies exist.”
J.D. Southall, a Purple Heart recipient who served in the Army for 30 years, introduced Choi to the podium by praising his service in Iraq.
“Lt. Dan was a hero and is a hero,” Southall said. “He went out there, oftentimes unarmed, to get people to come to their side.”
Choi began his speech by telling of a time during his service in Iraq when his squadron encountered a rally by Shi’a religious minorities that inspired him to stop concealing his sexual orientation.
“I wanted to share the empowerment of simple truth,” he said.
Choi, who was 26 when he first came out about being gay, said that his service in the Army, to which he hopes to eventually return, taught him discipline and not to be content without the full truth.
“These concepts are not dead to me,” he said.
“This is the real work they taught me to do.”
Joce DeWitt can be contacted at 758-9510 or firstname.lastname@example.org.