NEW YORK (WCBS 880/AP) - For Dan Choi, there was a feeling of validation today as the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy officially became history.
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Under the policy, the former lieutenant was kicked out of the U.S. Army after coming out of the closet on The Rachel Maddow Show in 2009.
Choi, a resident of Midtown Manhattan, remembers feeling nervous when his soldiers learned he was gay.
“One by one, the soldiers came up to me and said, ‘Sir, we know you are gay and that’s great because I have a gay brother, because I have a lesbian sister,” he said.
When the discharge process began, they had Choi’s back.
“They wrote letters for me. They testified on my behalf,” he said.
Choi expects the impact of this policy shift to be gradual.
“I don’t think that it’s going to be a big coming out party or a parade down at Fort Hood,” he told WCBS 880′s Peter Haskell.
For gay soldiers now, Choi believes this will bring relief.
“The fear that they will be fired simply for telling the truth — that dissipates,” he said.
Some say the policy of open service will undermine unit cohesion and trust. Choi weighed in on that opinion.
“Trust is based off of honesty. You cannot have trust when it’s based off of a lie or a prevarication,” he said.
The 30-year-old is hoping to rejoin the Army, though he does still face criminal charges for chaining himself to the White House fence in a protest against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says repealing the ban on openly gay service makes this an historic day for the military and the nation.
Panetta says he is committed to removing all the barriers that prevent Americans from serving their country and rising to the highest level of responsibility they can achieve. He says the Pentagon will continue to look at other opportunities, including the role of women in combat.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen says that with the new law allowing gays to serve openly, the military is a stronger, more tolerant joint force with greater character and honor.
Repeal of the 18-year-old legal ban took effect just after midnight.
How do you feel about the new era of open service for the U.S. military? Sound off below!
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