Updated 06/21/2010 03:57 PM
Gay Pride Week: Discharged Soldier To Lead Annual March
A National Guard lieutenant who was arrested earlier this year for protesting the Pentagon's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy will be honored as one of the grand marshals in next week's Pride march. NY1's Rebecca Spitz filed the following report.
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Never backing down in the face of adversity is just one of the reasons Lieutenant Dan Choi is one of the grand marshals in this year's Heritage of Pride march.
A member of the Army National Guard, Choi spent 15 months in Iraq. But he put the brakes on a promising military career when he came out during an interview on national television in 2009. Since then, he has effectively become the poster soldier for repealing the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy which forbids service members from opening, discussing or disclosing their homosexuality.
"The moment that I wore my uniform, fighting for this country, I swore to uphold what this country means. It means liberty and justice for all, for all of us. And we cannot leave out any single member, any single part of this society," Choi said.
But it hasn't been an easy road for the West Point graduate with a degree in Arabic. After 11 years of service, Choi got a discharge notice, yet he still continues to serve.
"I find it very strange that I am allowed to continue serving while 500 people have been kicked out this year and hundreds more are being kicked out as long as the president and Congress don't fully repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,'" Choi said.
In March, Choi and a gay U.S. Army captain chained themselves to the White House fence in protest of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," trying to take their message directly to President Barack Obama. They were arrested and spent the night undeterred in a D.C. prison.
"We had the shackles on our feet, we had chains on our waist and we had handcuffs restricting our motion but we never felt more free in our entire lives," Choi said.
Choi says it's crucial his message gets across and that no soldier ever feels alone.
"How disgusting to think that 60 years from now they're going to look back on this time in 2010 and say you weren't able to serve in your country's military because you are an American who happens to be gay? We're going to be so ashamed," Choi said.
For more information on this year's pride march, visit http://www.nycpride.org/.