Major General Christopher Cortez (left), commends Staff Sergeant Eric Alva on July 13, 2003, calling him "a credit to the Corps".
April 1, 1971 |
San Antonio, Texas, U.S.
|Occupation||author, United States Marine activist|
Staff Sergeant Eric Fidelis Alva (born December 19, 1970) was the first Marine seriously injured in the Iraq War. On March 21, 2003, he was in charge of 11 Marines in a supply unit when he stepped on a land mine and lost his right leg.
Alva, a native of San Antonio, Texas, grew up in a military family. He graduated from high school in 1989, weighing just 90 pounds. He joined the United States Marine Corps in 1990 at the age of 19 when he already knew he was gay and the U.S. military excluded all gays and lesbians from service, open or not. He served for 13 years, including postings in Okinawa and Somalia. For much of his career, he was out to his fellow Marines.
He began working as a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign in 2006. In February 2007, he joined Democratic Rep. Marty Meehan of Massachusetts and a bipartisan group of House members when they reintroduced the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, legislation that would repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) policy regarding service in the U.S. armed forces on the part of gays and lesbians.
Alva then served as the Grand Marshall of the 2008 Chicago Gay and Lesbian Pride parade on Sunday, June 29, 2008.
On July 23, 2008, Alva testified about DADT before a subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee. He said: "Unit cohesion is essential. What my experience proves, they are wrong about how to achieve it. My being gay and even many of my colleagues knowing about it didn’t damage unit cohesion. They put their lives in my hands, and when I was injured, they risked their lives to save mine." He described intimate living conditions while stationed in Somalia. He also reported conversations with military personnel from other countries in which they uniformly expressed surprise that "our Nation is so further behind others when we seem to be the forefront of trying to be the example."
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, General Peter Pace said, "I believe homosexual acts between individuals are immoral." Alva commented: "His remarks were insensitive and disrespectful to the thousands of men and women who are serving in the military at this current time under the policy." In December 2010, Marine Corps commandant Gen. James F. Amos said the presence of homosexuals in the marines would pose a "distraction" and that "I don't want to have any Marines that I'm visiting at Bethesda [National Naval Medical Center] with no legs be the result of any type of distraction." Alva commented: "He pretty much spit on me, my Purple Heart, and my 13 years of service. I would definitely ask Amos for a meeting to explain his comments, and I’d bring my Purple Heart with me."
- "I come from a family of servicemen. My dad, Fidelis, is a Vietnam vet. My grandfather, also named Fidelis, was a World War II and Korean War veteran. I was named after them. My middle name is Fidelis. Fidelis means faithful."
- "We're losing probably thousands of men and women that are skilled at certain types of jobs, from air traffic controllers to linguists, because of this broken policy."
- Responding to a question about whether being in the closet affected him: "On a professional level, no, because I knew I had a job to do. On a personal level, in some ways, yes, because it was hard for me to live sometimes knowing that I was alone or that I couldn't be open about who I wanted to date."
- Matt Griffin, "Profiles: U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Eric Alva," July 23, 2003, accessed May 29, 2012
- Thompson, Mark (2007-03-13). "Reexamining 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'". Time magazine. Retrieved 2009-03-31.
- Vargas, Jose Antonio (February 27, 2007). "Defending His Country, but Not Its 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Policy". Washington Post. p. C01.
- Congress, House, Military Personnel Subcommittee, Don't Ask Don't Tell Review, 110th Cong., 2nd sess., July 23, 2008, 7-9, 15, 17, 22, 27, 44
- Navy Times: Rick Maze, "New bill would let gays serve openly,"February 28, 2007, accessed May 29, 2012
- CNN: Larry Shaughnessy, "Gay veteran calls for end of 'Don't ask, don't tell'," February 28, 2007, accessed May 29, 2012
- EdgeBoston: Angie Berthelsen, "Eric Alva Comes To Chicago," June 24, 2008, accessed May 29, 2012
- PBS: "Pace Remarks Renew 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Debate," March 16, 2007, accessed May 29, 2012
- CNN: "Paula Zahn Now: America's Top General Under Fire," March 13, 2007, accessed May 29, 2012
- The Advocate: "Amos 'Pretty Much Spit on Me' ," December 15, 2010, accessed May 29, 2012
- The Advocate: "Out former marine goes to Congress to fight 'don't ask, don't tell'," March 1, 2007, accessed May 29, 2012
- Joshua Lynsen, "A new kind of fight," Washington Blade, February 28, 2007, available online, January 9, 2013
- Eric Alva holds a press conference for the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell
- Wounded, Marine and gay
- HRC: Eric Alva Comes Out Against 'Don't Ask Don't Tell'
- Gay Marine rocks the US military
- Eric Alva at The Huffington Post
- Alva interviewed by Michele Norris
- Paula Zahn interview of Eric Alva in Response to Pace Comments
- Hispanic war veteran honored