To many, Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer. Outdoor barbecues, trips to the beach and carefree hours in the sun. However, for those in uniform it is a time of reflection and remembrance. Each year on this holiday, I have a nostalgic sense of duty and feel the sting of the ultimate sacrifice made by my fallen comrades.
As a Soldier, I was honored to serve side by side with some of the most fascinating, intelligent and selfless people I have ever met. I was proud every day that I had the privilege to put on my US Army uniform. My unit was more than a team -- we were a family who would risk our own safety for the man or woman to our right and left. Family does not care if you are black or white, male or female, gay or straight. Family cares about completing the mission at hand and returning home to see the people in your life whose freedom you fight for everyday. We were a team, a family, a machine: an Army.
Unfortunately this Memorial Day nearly marks the three-year anniversary of when I was told I could no longer serve my country. Regardless of my two tours to the Middle East or my ascension up the military ladder, I was discharged. I was not wounded or killed in action, yet I was a casualty of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT).
While still an active duty Sergeant I fought to see the demise of this unjust and discriminatory law, and to this day, I stand by our key leaders working tirelessly to rid our military of DADT. We have made great strides, and it is now clear that we are on the brink of finally ending DADT in the Armed Forces.
This will be the last Memorial Day in which men and women will be denied the right to serve their country openly and honestly because of their sexual orientation. It is a true shame that so many brave men and women who are willing and able to fight for the freedoms of our nation have been sidelined and denied that very right to serve. So on this Memorial Day, I must say thank you to all of our heroes, both in and out of uniform, gay or straight, stateside or abroad. And to all of our patriots who gave the ultimate sacrifice, know that you will never be forgotten.
05-27-11 By Darren Manzella, former U.S. Army Sergeant |