Thank you to everyone who submitted questions via our blog for Sergeant Darren Manzella. Servicemembers Legal Defense Network passed along your questions to Manzella, who has responded to a number of those. Here are his answers to our readers' inquiries.
Q: Darren, Thanks for your service to our country, and for your bravery in coming out so publicly. Are you concerned about the consequences of returning to your unit now that you have spoken out publicly?
A: Thank you for your support. I am curious about the actions, if any, that may take place upon my return to work by my command. I have an incredible team of attorneys at Servicemembers Legal Defense Network who have been amazing at informing of any form of action that my command may take regarding my recent publicity. As I said, I am curious as to what may happen but I am not concerned of the consequences because I feel that by sharing my story and speaking out about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" gives a public voice to the thousands and thousands of servicemembers that are silenced everyday by this policy.
Q: I served for 15 (1985-2000) years in the Air Force mostly in the closet. I originally came out at the tender age of 15, but returned back into the closet to allow me to serve my country. Only a few knew about me as I joined before the "Don't ask, Don't tell" policy came into effect. The ones who did know didn't have any problems working beside me. We were all there to do a job/ mission. Some just don't understand why someone who is gay would also want to be in the military.
My question to you is, how has your military life been like since the 60 Minutes interview? Have you overheard any off-color remarks? Any buddies pull back and distance themselves from you? Has there been any discharge talk?
A: Thank you for writing JT. I have been on leave since my return from deployment and plan on returning to work this week. However, since my interview on 60 Minutes aired I have recieved a staggering amount of support from family, friends and military personnel (all branches, ranks, active/reserve/retired). Many thank me for speaking out against a policy that have either effected their military career or the career of someone they worked with closely.
My family, friends, colleagues, etc. are equally supportive and offer unconditional support regardless of the outcome of any action that my command may take.
I have not received negative responses or off-color remarks and I have not heard any type of repsonse form my command regarding discharge.
Q: First of all, thank you for your exemplary service. You are a credit to your country, its military services, and to those of us who also served but dare not speak out.
My question: Did anyone in the service ever denigrate, or "disrespect" you(the current lingo), for being gay?
A: Thank you for your question and for your support. When I first came out to my supervisor and then the news of my being gay traveled up my chain of command I never felt disrespected. A popular response I received from personnel in my command was "I don't care if you're gay or not". The majority of my colleagues were very supportive and I feel it form a tighter bond between us because they knew who I truly was.
I served openly gay on my recent deployment. Shortly after arriving in Iraq I was sent to Kuwait to fill a liaison position. Initially I was unsure if this was action taken because I "came out", but I never recieved any form of derogatory behavior or attitudes from anyone in my unit. Once in Kuwait I soon acquired a new group of colleagues and peers and I felt very accepted of who I was. I think it is important that people know that this new group I felt a part of in Kuwait was incredibly diverse, consisting of males & females, gay & straight, all branches and ranks of the military, and a wide range of ages and ethinicites.
If you have more questions for Sergeant Manzella, leave them in the comments section here at Bilerico. We'll pass those along to Darren. Thank you to everyone who wrote in.
Originally posted at Frontlines.