Gay Discharged War Veteran Signs Up for Army - New York News

Gay Discharged War Veteran Signs Up for Army

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An Iraq War veteran discharged from the New York Army National Guard because he had gone public about his homosexuality began the process of enlisting in the U.S. Army on Tuesday following a decision by the military to suspend the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Lt. Dan Choi, a 29-year-old West Point graduate who was discharged in July, said it was a "a great day for celebration" before walking into a Times Square recruiting station about 4 p.m.

He first attempted to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps but said on his Twitter page that he was denied for being too old. The Marine Corps Recruiting Command said the standard enlistment age is between ages 17 and 28.

John Caldwell, a spokesman for the recruiting command, said in an e-mail that "should a a prospective applicant voluntarily provide information indicating he or she is a homosexual, recruiters will continue to process that person's application and will seek further guidance" from the chain of command.

"Applicants will not be told that they are ineligible for service," he added.

Applicants can obtain waivers if they are too old, but local recruiting stations must request it. "Due to the high volume of qualified applicants who require no waivers, there is little need for Marine Corps' recruiting stations to request exceptions to policy at this time," Caldwell said.

After being denied by the Marines, Choi then went over and signed up to become an Army specialist.

According to the Army website, recruits have to undergo testing and a full physical before they can be sworn in as soldiers.

Choi said he's due back Wednesday to continue the Army enlistment process and had already obtained military security clearance.

When asked how he felt about enlisting as a rank-and-file soldier, he said he could accept that.

"Rank doesn't matter," he said. "It's about serving and contributing to the greater good. Service is about sacrifices."

He said American service members should be able to serve "openly, honestly, with integrity, acknowledging their partner."

Last week, a court struck down a law banning gays from serving openly.

The Defense Department said it had suspended its policy banning gays pending a possible appeal by the Justice Department of the decision.

Choi, who went public about his homosexuality on a cable network talk show, said before going into the recruiting station that he was "very excited" about the decision.

"This decision gave me the reassurance that at least one branch of government, the judiciary, is in keeping with the constitutional mandate, due process and free speech," he said.

"All the other branches, including the president, have been a major disappointment," Choi added.

Choi has participated in other protests of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, including one earlier this year when he and other activists chained themselves to the White House fence.

Associated Press Writer Cristian Salazar contributed to this report.

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