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Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal One Year Later: “Out of Many, We Are One”

A year after repaling Don't Ask, Don't Tell former service members reflect on the long journey toward repeal and what it was like to watch President Obama sign the Repeal Act into law.
President Barack Obama signs the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010

President Barack Obama signs the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 during a ceremony at the Interior Department in Washington, D.C., Dec. 22, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

 For we are not a nation that says, “don’t ask, don’t tell.” We are a nation that says, “Out of many, we are one.”  We are a nation that welcomes the service of every patriot.  We are a nation that believes that all men and women are created equal. Those are the ideals that generations have fought for.  Those are the ideals that we uphold today.  And now, it is my honor to sign this bill into law.

 -- President Barack Obama, December 22, 2010.

One year ago, President Obama signed into law the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Repeal Act, bringing to an end a discriminatory policy that forced patriotic Americans to serve under a cloud of anxiety and isolation and stood in stark contrast to our shared values of unity and equality.

One year later, gay and lesbian service members can serve the country they love without hiding who they love – and both our military and country are stronger for it. 

To commemorate the one year anniversary of President Obama signing the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Repeal Act, we asked a few former service members to reflect on the long journey toward repeal and what it was like to watch President Obama sign the Repeal Act into law:

Zoe Dunning

Until her retirement in 2007, Retired Navy Commander Zoe Dunning was one of the only openly gay service members in the country, having successfully fought an attempted discharge in 1993.  For many of those years, she served on the board of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network as an advocate for the repeal of DADT. 

Watch Retired Navy Commander Zoe Dunning's story here.

Eric Alva

Retired Staff Sergeant Eric Alva joined the U.S. Marine Corps when he was 19 years old.  He served honorably for 13 years until 2003, when he became the first American soldier wounded in Iraq.  SSgt Alva was subsequently medically retired, and for his heroism, received a Purple Heart.

Watch Retired Staff Sergeant Eric Alva's story here.

Grethe Cammermeyer

Retired Colonel Grethe Cammermeyer, RN, PhD, is a Vietnam Veteran and Bronze Star recipient who spent much of her life advocating against the original ban on gays in the military and later against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  Her autobiography, “Serving in Silence,” was recognized by the National Education Association and later made into an Emmy Award winning movie starring Glenn Close and produced by Barbra Streisand.  Today, Col. Cammermeyer also serves on the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS).

Watch retired Colonel Grethe Cammermeyer's story here.

Jonathan Hopkins

Former Army Captain Jonathan Hopkins graduated at the top of his West Point class and was deployed three times to Iraq and Afghanistan, earning three Bronze Stars, including one for valor.  Fourteen months after being outed, he was honorably discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in August 2010.

Former Army Captain Jonathan Hopkins' story here.

Sue Fulton

Former Army Captain Sue Fulton graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1980 – the first class to include women.  Today, she is the Executive Director of Knights Out – an organization of West Point LGBT alumni, staff, and faculty – and she also serves as a Member of the West Point Board of Visitors.

Watch former Army Captain Sue Fulton's story here.

Gautam Raghavan is an Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement.