Anyone who has followed the effort to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t tell will have noticed someone prominent missing from the debate over the past couple weeks: Lt. Dan Choi. As the attempt to end the law before the Republicans take over congress has sputtered along, Choi has been missing in action. His twitter has been nearly silent this whole month.
We got to know Choi while writing an October cover story about him. Since then we’ve been checking in with him regularly and noticed the silence.
Today, we got this e-mail from a mutual acquaintance, Derek Washington of the Stonewall Democratic Club of Southern Nevada:
Many of us have been quite concerned lately that Lt. Dan Choi has not been heard from recently during the battle to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. My concern stems from the fact that for the last two years I’ve watched Dan do his best to help move the Equality movement forward while not taking care of his own personal needs. In my opinion, Dan has had the movement weighing far too heavily on his mind and spirit. It’s a role he took on as much by circumstance as choice, and he’s served honorably, but he is only human and needs to take care of himself in order to help others.
Dan called me today to let me know that it had all gotten a little too much for him lately. After last week’s DADT vote, Dan, for lack of a better term, “lost it” and decided to seek professional help through the Veterans Administration. He is currently resting and receiving the help of professionals who understand what Dan is going through much better than any of us could. It’s easy to forget that Dan was a combat veteran because he always puts on a brave front for the cause, but Dan is also a human who has seen much worse than most of us in his lifetime.
Dan asked me to get the word out about him because he wants people to know that thousands upon thousands of men, young and old, are in the same boat as him. We welcome our Vets home, but we then just expect them to jump right back into life as if War was just a video game somewhere else. Hopefully when Dan is better, he’ll be able to draw attention to the issues that all Combat Veterans face and, hopefully, take his present situation and turn it into a way to help him and others.
As a journalist, it is strange to watch such a critical stage in the fight for equality in the military without the person who’d become that issue’s face. Regardless of what happens in this congress, Choi will always be the person that pushed publicly harder on repealing Don’t Ask than anyone else at this point in time.
On a personal note, I have watched the toll Choi’s relentless schedule and activism have had on him first hand. A bout of exhaustion seemed like it would be coming to him eventually, given his pace. (Others, having read our profile, concurred.) I also realized being around him that a lot of people forget he’s a soldier. Maybe it’s his celebrity, but they forget that he did two tours of Iraq and is prone to the same issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder, as any other returning vet.
Derek Washington says that Choi will be taking a low profile for awhile, but he plans to promote the issues of combat vets when he gets better. Washington added “I’m just happy Dan is getting the help that he needs.”
Take care, Dan.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 14, 2010