PageOneQ: Army Sergeant Darren Manzella, profiled on 60 Minutes, has been let go under the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

Manzella has been twice deployed to Iraq since his enlistment in 2002. Military awards he has received during his service include the Combat Medical Badge. He also received the Barry Winchell Courage Award at the 16th Annual SLDN National Dinner in March of 2008.

“My sexual orientation certainly didn’t make a difference when I treated injuries and saved lives in the streets of Baghdad,” Manzella told SLDN. “It shouldn’t be a factor in allowing me to continue to serve.”

The 30-year-old told CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl in December 2007 that despite the policy, which mandates discharge of a servicemembers who are discovered to be gay, he served openly with the blessing of his colleagues and superiors. After receiving anonymous e-mails advising him to “turn down the flame,” Manzella turned to a commanding officer for help and came out to him in the process. Ultimately, after an investigation, “no evidence of homosexuality” was found, despite video and photographs of Manzella with his partner, and he was told to return to work.

“The discharge of battle-tested, talented service members like Sergeant Manzella weakens our military in a time of war,” said SLDN Communications Director Adam Ebbin. “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.”

Manzella was the first active duty servicemember serving in a war zone to speak with the media. It has been estimated that over 500 individuals serve openly in the United States military despite “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” suggesting selective enforcement of, and perhaps distaste for, the policy, and an unwillingness to sacrifice needed personnel.




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