Lt. Dan Choi, an Iraq war veteran who has emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the military ban on openly gay service members, has been discharged from the Army National Guard.
In a telephone call from his battalion commander on Thursday morning, Choi was notified of his honorable discharge, coming almost a year and a half after he came out on national television.
Choi issued this statement:
“This morning I received notification of my honorable discharge from the army under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” After 11 years since beginning my journey at West Point and after 17 months of serving openly as an infantry officer this is both an infuriating and painful announcement.
“But my service continues. To all those veterans who have endured similar trials and injustices or prematurely ended their military service because of the unjust policy: our fight has only begun.
“The true honor and dignity of service does not come from a piece of paper, a pension or paycheck, a rank or status; only an unflinching commitment to improve the lives of others can determine the nature of one’s service. From the first moment we put on our nation’s uniform and swore our solemn oath, we committed ourselves to fight for freedom and justice; to defend our constitution and put the needs of others before our own. This is not an oath that I intend to abandon. Doing so at such a time, or remaining silent when our family and community members are fired or punished for who they truly are would be an unequivocal moral dereliction that tarnishes the honor of the uniform and insults the meaning of America.”
Since outing himself, Choi has become a vocal opponent of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” In March, he criticized Defense Secretary Robert Gates for only relaxing enforcement of the policy rather than unilaterally ceasing enforcement.
On two occasions earlier this year, Choi was arrested for handcuffing himself to the White House fence in “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” protests. He was charged with two counts of failure to obey a lawful order, but last week prosecutors dropped all charges.
Earlier this week, Choi was arrested in Las Vegas during a demonstration calling on Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic senate majority leader, to do more to pass the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
Meanwhile, efforts to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” continue to move through Congress and the military. The Pentagon is currently conducting a study into a possible repeal’s effects. A report on that study is expected to be presented to President Obama and military officials by December 1.
Since 1993, when “don’t ask, don’t tell” was introduced, more than 14,000 servicemen and women have been discharged because of their sexual orientation, and tens of thousands of others have voluntarily ended their military careers.