Memorial Day Weekend Profile: Lt. Dan Choi

For Memorial Day Weekend, I’m writing three posts that will profile three awesome Asian American servicemen and veterans of the United States Armed Services. Today’s spotlight: Lt. Dan Choi.

Lt. Dan Choi, at the National Equality March in 2009

Who?

Lt. Dan Choi is a former infantry officer who served in the United States Army for ten years, including two years in Iraq between 2006 and 2007. A graduate from the prestigious West Point Academy, Choi is a Arabic language specialist. In 2009, after a decade of service in the U.S. Army, Choi transferred to the New York National Guard.

Why He’s Awesome?

In March 2009, Choi appeared on The Rachel Maddow show, where he uttered three little words on-air: “I am gay”.

 

Because the act of disclosing your homosexality is a violation of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, which was implemented by the Clinton Administration, Lt. Dan Choi received a letter of dismissal from the New York National Guard. Choi fought the decision, and faced a military trial that ultimately again recommended Choi for dismissal for being gay. However, discharge procedures were never finalized, and Choi continues to serve in the New York National Guard to this day. 

Meanwhile, Choi has become one of the most prominent critics of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, a policy that forbids “homosexual conduct” in active servicemen and that disproportionately affects women and minority officers. He has repeatedly urged the Obama Administration to repeal DADT, and he founded “KnightsOut” an advocacy group for LGBT memebers of West Point. Choi was arrested twicethis year for chaining himself to the White House fence in order to raise awareness about DADT’s negative effects on gay military personnel.

Signs are that Choi’s efforts are gaining ground. Although Choi remains in violation of DADT, he was recently invited by his commander to participate in active drills with his National Guard battalion for the first time in over a year. One of President Obama’s primary campaign promises was the repeal of DADT within his first term in office. And, this past week, both the Senate Armed Forces and the House voted to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

For their vocal and ardent activism regarding “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, Choi and all the other LGBT APIA servicemen who have taken a brave public stand against DADT definitely deserve recognition this Memorial Day Weekend.

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