Eric Alva: Now is the time to end
"don’t ask, don’t tell"
QSanAntonio.com, July 9, 2009
On July 8, retired Marine Staff Sergeant Eric Alva of San Antonio
joined U.S. Representative Patrick Murphy (D-PA), representatives from
the Human Rights Campaign and Servicemembers United to launch "Voices
of Honor: A Generation Under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."
The national tour highlights the discriminatory law
that hurts military readiness and national security while putting American
soldiers fighting overseas at risk. Following are Alva's comments made
at the Washington, DC press conference.
Good morning ladies and gentleman thank you for being here. My name is
retired Marine Staff Sergeant Eric Alva.
Six years ago, on March 21, 2003, I was part of a logistical convoy with
3rd Battalion, 7th Marines. My unit was part of the first wave of ground
troops that entered the country of Iraq from Kuwait to start the ground
invasion of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I had been in Iraq no more than three
hours, when I stepped on a landmine near the city of Basra suffering life
threatening injuries. I had a broken left leg, a broken right arm with
severe nerve damage, and a badly injured right leg that doctors had to
amputate in order to save my life. I had become the first American service
member to be injured in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
It was not until February 28, 2007, that I announced not only to the people
of the United States, but to the rest of the world that the first American
injured in the Iraq war was a gay Marine. I had decided to be true to
myself and my country by coming forward and announcing who I am. My coming
forward was to tell the citizens of this country, that as a patriotic
American when I went to fight the war on terrorism it was for the rights
and freedoms of every single person in the United States, not just selected
individuals. That means every single individual regardless of who they
I stand here today on two good legs again, with my fellow service members,
and a courageous Congressman, Patrick Murphy, to show my support for HR
1283 the Military Readiness Enhancement Act. It is time to let people
be judged for their merit, professionalism and their leadership. This
is a time that we should not be firing anyone from their job in the United
States Armed Forces solely for being gay. One year ago we celebrated the
60 year anniversary of the desegregation of our Armed Forces. At the time,
people said it would not work. They were wrong. Now we are facing a similar
debate with the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. We need to
end this discrimination in the United States once and for all, and be
true to what we mean when we state "with liberty and justice for
Just this past weekend, we celebrated 233 years of this country’s
independence. As a gay man, a retired decorated Marine, a husband to my
partner Darrell, and as an American citizen, when will individuals such
as myself, have their full independence? I say the time is now, let people
serve their nation, let people live where they want, love who they want,
and give them their full independence as it should be when we celebrate
this country’s freedom.
In March 2003, Marine Sgt. Eric Alva of
San Antonio became the first soldier injured in the Iraq War when he stepped
on a landmine resulting in the loss of his right leg part of an index
finger. On Feb. 28, 2007, he joined Rep. Marty Meehan, D-Mass., in calling
for an end to the government’s "Don’t ask, Don’t
Tell" policy. Last summer, Darrell Parsons, Alva’s partner,
urged him to come out and speak up for gay soldiers who risk their lives
to bring freedom to others. Alva used to be an avid runner but since his
injuries he has taken up scuba diving.
-- Interview with Eric Alva
The first U.S. soldier wounded in the Iraq War
By Toby Johnson, QSanAntonio, March 9, 2007
Eric, in 2003 you were hailed as an American hero. Now you've made
the news again, this time as a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign.
I'm sure fellow gay San Antonians are proud of you and are interested
in how you're faring with your injuries.
Eric Alva: I
was a marathon runner back in 1995. But my left leg was broken badly in
the explosion and has never been the same since. So, even though I have
a running prosthesis, I’ve retired from that sport and taken up
swimming. I’m an avid scuba diver now.
Coming home to San Antonio was a blessing. The city welcomed me home with
open arms. And now for a second time, they are doing it again it seems.
TJ: Do you have any memories
of growing up in San Antonio?
EA: I actually grew up out
by 1604 and Hwy 90, and attended Southwest High School. In the 1980's
there was nothing out that way, and look at it now. Every time I came
home to visit there was something new. Amazing how this city has grown.
They were working on the freeways back then too (laughing).
TJ: What inspired you
to join the Marines?
EA: My grandfather was a WWII
veteran and my dad a Vietnam veteran. I always knew I wanted to follow
in their footsteps. After high school though I was told to go to college.
I did and it did not work out. All along I knew I wanted a career in the
Marine Corps. So in 1990, I was the first of my family to join the Corps.
Most of my family had been Army or Navy. Guess I had to be different (grinning).
TJ: I guess you were different!
Did you know you were gay when you joined?
EA: I had an idea, but it
was something I was not acting on at the time because getting into the
military was my priority. It definitely was something I discovered in
the military. I was growing in age and maturity, at the same time I was
lonely, and I realized what was missing was me enjoying the life as a
I started to go to gay clubs in San Diego and I observed all the short
haircuts like mine there. I knew then there were people like me in the
military. I even had the opportunity to form some friendships. You kind
of knew who was gay because they possessed the same traits as you. For
example always going to gatherings alone, never talking about women, just
sending those signals.
TJ: Do you think your
gayness had any influence in your acting heroically?
EA: My being gay was a personal
characteristic of who I was. The decorated service I preformed for 13
years was also a part of who I was. I was like any other person serving
his or her country, and doing the best job possible. It did not matter
if I was gay or straight, I was serving proudly.
TJ: Are gay soldiers problems
in the service? Or good examples of generous, well-behaved, right-minded
EA: Most people have focused
on the idea that gay men and women would affect unit cohesion or disrupt
the discipline of the Armed Forces, but I strongly disagree. People thought
the same thing when black troops were integrated with white troops, but
the military went on to function well.
How ironic it is that the one organization that protects the blanket of
freedom for all the rights and privileges in this country is the first
to discriminate against American men and women just for being gay. Gay
men and women have served this country for hundreds of years, and now
is the time to let them be judged for who they are—strong men and
women who are willing to sacrifice everything. I applaud them everyday.
I want to thank the Human Rights Campaign for giving me this opportunity
to tell my story, and I want to thank the city of San Antonio for welcoming
me home a second time. Coming home from Washington D.C. last week, to
all the positive responses, has made me more grateful and blessed to be
alive. I especially want to thank my partner Darrell. He was the true
foundation of what has started to be a positive journey, not just for
the GLBT community but all people who are oppressed in this world.
(Toby Johnson’s most recent book,
"Charmed Lives: Gay Spirit in Storytelling," which includes
three stories by San Antonio writers, has been nominated for a Lambda