A decorated Army Sergeant has been discharged under the US military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy after he came out as gay on television.
The Iraq war veteran was one of the first openly gay active duty service members to speak with the media while serving inside a war zone. In December 2007, Manzella was profiled by the CBS news magazine 60 Minutes.
He told correspondent Lesley Stahl that he served openly during much of his time in the Army, with the full support of his colleagues and command.
In response to his firing, Sergeant Manzella said, “My sexual orientation certainly didn’t make a difference when I treated injuries and saved lives in the streets of Baghdad. It shouldn’t be a factor in allowing me to continue to serve.”
Manzella, 30, enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2002 and was twice deployed to the Middle East in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. While under fire on the streets of Baghdad, he provided medical care to his fellow soldiers, Iraqi National Guardsmen and civilians.
He was awarded the Combat Medical Badge, and also received several other awards recognising his courage and service.
“The discharge of battle-tested, talented service members like Sergeant Manzella weakens our military in a time of war. National security requires that Congress lift the ban on gays in the military and allow commanders to judge troops on their qualifications, not their sexuality,” said Adam Ebbin, Communications Director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN).
SLDN accuses the military of hypocrisy following reports that a growing number of service members are serving openly without incident. The organisation says that it is aware of more than 500 troops who are ‘out’ to their colleagues and, in some cases, their commands.