By Albert Samaha
By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
By Alison Flowers
By Albert Samaha
By Jesse Jarnow
By Eric Tsetsi
"I am gay, and I was discharged under 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' " Choi tells the recruiter for the Army, his old branch (and the only one that will accept recruits over 28). And, per the Pentagon's directive earlier that day, they started processing him.
Re-enlisting is a process that can take a few weeks, and Choi emerged some time later knowing he'd have to return the next day to do more paperwork. Stepping into the heart of Times Square, he handled the deluge of press with his characteristic aplomb, making jokes about being "a little too old for the Marines" before speaking seriously about the meaning of Judge Phillips's ruling.
"Just like all of the other minorities that have been scapegoated and stigmatized throughout the history of America, [who've] depended on the courts to protect their rights, and protect the American virtues and values and foundational principals—that's what happened! And it's a day we can all celebrate. Not as gay people, not as straight people, but as American people!"
"Are you worried about it being overturned?" a reporter asks, making Choi break into a huge smile.
"I'm not worried! I'm gonna keep on serving. How 'bout that?"
He has gone from being the leader of a platoon to a leader of a movement. How will he deal with becoming a grunt? How will his superiors cope?
When the subject comes up, one friend, former Army Sergeant Denny Meyer, jokes that Choi will "come face to face with his new commanding officer, whose eyes will widen in terror. He will put his face in his hands and say, 'Why me? I'm due to retire soon!' " But after laughing, Meyer says, "In all seriousness, I honestly believe [Choi] will get the utmost respect. In today's army of professional Non-Commissioned Officers, I can assure you no NCO would tolerate anything but respect."
Putting the officer status aside, after spending time with Lt. Dan Choi, it's unclear how he'll fit into the life of a grunt infantryman just after having been a national celebrity.
One thing's for sure, though—he's out, and he intends to serve in the armed forces again. Even the next day, when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a temporary stay of Judge Phillips's halt of the discharge policy, he said "My plans have not changed. I'm going back in."
And, as if there was ever any doubt, he has no plans to cancel his Grindr account. "I was already starting to see a couple of other guys popping up on Grindr the last few times I went to training, before I was kicked out," he says with a sly grin.