Lt. Dan Choi, the Iraq war veteran, Arab linguist, and West Point grad turned “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal activist, today got what he had said he wanted from day one: the opportunity to serve his country in the armed forces again. This afternoon, amid dozens of reporters, and thousands of passersby — most totally unaware they were seeing history in the making — Lt. Dan Choi, the former Army infantry officer, re-enlisted in the military, this time, as an out gay man.
Lt. Choi, who has become the poster child for repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law barring gays from serving openly in the military, had said from the start of his battle to force the government to accept openly gay and lesbian service members into the military, and keep them from discharging them under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” that he would be the first to re-enlist as soon as it was legal for him to do so.
Today, the military announced that it had instructed its recruiters to accept all applications even from those “who admit they are gay or lesbian.” (Sadly, the military is still using the term “admit,” rather than “acknowledge.”)
So, in a two-hour process that began at 3:58 PM, Choi got his wish. Sort of.
The twenty-nine year old had announced his intention to re-enlist, (technically, to be re-instated,) this afternoon, via Twitter. “I’m gonna try to enlist in the Marines today,” he tweeted. That brought throngs of news media and bloggers (yours, truly, had received word as well,) to Times Square.
Military recruiters, busy with another young man enlisting, kept the former Lieutenant waiting at the door for fourteen minutes. Upon seeing Choi, one recruiter picked up the phone, and many of us assumed he was calling his superiors for direction on what to do, given the special circumstances. I confess, we were surprised they weren’t prepared.
Choi had intended to enlist in the Marines, but tweeted at about 5:00 PM, “In the recruiting station. Apparently I’m too old for the Marines! Just filled out the Army application.”
Just before 6:00 PM, amid dozens of reporters, Choi pushed open the door — and had to push aside the media — and waved his enlistment papers in the air.
After the media left, Dan told a few friends, “Looks like I’ve got a job now.”
But, perhaps like millions of Americans, Choi is uncertain how long he will be employed. Right now, the military is allowing openly gay men and women to serve, but only under duress. Judge Virginia Phillips yesterday indicated she was reluctant to lift the injunction she imposed on the military one week ago, forcing them to immediately end all discharges and investigations related to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.
The government’s appeal, while not going well, could easily lead to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is perceived as being far more friendly to the military than Judge Phillips. The injunction that prohibits discharges and investigations could soon end, leaving Choi, and any other openly gay and lesbian recruits and service members hanging out to dry.
Just two hours earlier, Dan had said as he walked into Times Square, “It’s a day of celebration!”
And indeed it was.
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