It was nearly 20 years ago on an otherwise unremarkable November day that I began my life-changing six years of serving in the US Air Force. Each Veterans Day, I remember the proudest moment of my life: the day I stood up in front of family and friends, raised my right hand, and took a vow to defend my country.
I know firsthand how it feels to be treated differently in the military. Halfway through my enlistment, I came to terms with the fact that I am gay. Serving under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," I became immediately aware of the additional dangers I faced because of sexual orientation discrimination by the government -- losing a job I loved and the only life I knew.
After serving in silence for a number of years, I knew that I could not continue to work and prosper under such government discrimination. I had no choice but to leave the Air Force. Shortly after, I started on a new path, attending college on the GI Bill, starting my career in non-profit management, and, so luckily, falling in love.
We were one of the lucky 18,000 couples that got married in California before the passage of Prop 8. Within days we went from the joy and elation of celebrating our wedding to watching as voters stripped away the freedom to marry in California.
In that moment my life changed forever and I became an activist, dedicating all my strengths toward one goal: equality. As a community, we've made incredible strides over the past year as we challenge both military and marriage discrimination. Many thought we could never get Congress to act. Many uphill battles were waged in the courts. And when he signed the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal bill into law, President Obama honored the sacrifices of so many who had served in silence all these years, as well as those of us who raised our voices and did the work that brought this discrimination down.
And yet families that are putting their lives on the line for our country still continue to be treated differently, which means we have much more work to do. Whether or not we are successful in our mission here at Freedom to Marry depends on you.
This Veterans Day, I am asking you to stand with me and other veterans and support Freedom to Marry's work to overturn the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, the last remaining direct discrimination by the government itself now that we have ended "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Because of DOMA, service members, veterans, and their families still experience discrimination -- the sting of inequality, the burden of actual denial of tangible protections - while serving our country. Please make a donation today in their honor.
Jeffrey Correa served in the US Air Force for six years as an Arabic linguist in support of Operation Southern Watch, and is now the Development Director for the non-profit Freedom to Marry.