Army Sgt. Darren Manzella, the first out service member on active duty to speak to the press from a war zone and challenge the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy, tragically passed away in New York last night. He was 36 years old. Manzella came out on a 2007 episode of CBS' 60 Minutes which went on to receive a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding TV Journalism – Newsmagazine. He was placed on block leave following the episode's airing and worked with Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) before he was discharged from the military in 2008. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was repealed in 2011.
Manzella served in Iraq and Kuwait as an Army medic where he earned a Combat Medical Badge for caring for fellow soldiers while under fire in Baghdad. He was out to several of his friends, but when he received anonymous hate e-mails, Manzella went to his commander who reported him under the DADT policy. Manzella cooperated with the proceeding investigation before being told to return to work as "proof of homosexuality" was not found. He then came out on the CBS news series 60 Minutes. He was eventually given honorable discharge with full benefits and he continued to work with SLDN to advocate for the repeal of DADT.
GLAAD urges everyone to take a moment today to reflect on the memory and legacy of Darren Manzella. You can watch his episode of 60 Minutes below.