Gay vet re-enlists after end of 'don't ask, don't tell'

October 24, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Lee Reinhart served out his enlistment in the Navy in the 1990s not letting anyone know he was gay. After 9/11, he re-enlisted in the Coast Guard, wanting to serve his country. Under the former policy of "don't ask, don't tell" he was kicked out of the Coast Guard when it was discovered he was gay.

Reinhart began working hard to the repeal of that policy and on Monday he got his wish. He is back in the Navy.

"I, Lee Reinhart, do solemnly swear, I will support and defend the constitution of the United States of America," he said.

Congressman Mike Quigley, who experienced the lobbying, letter writing and work of Reinhart these past years, was at the center on Halsted to swear him into the Naval Reserve.

"Lee, there was a time when you were not appreciated. I promise you are now. This is an extraordinary testament not only to your dedication and perseverance but to your love of country," said Quigley.

Also there Monday were former naval colleagues and members of the American Veterans for Equal Rights. After the 38-year-old Reinhart thanked them all he asked other veterans, gay and straight, to stand with him at the podium as people who did not worry first about a soldier's sexuality.

"These are men and women who served our country honorably. Now we are seen as one...and can be judged by the content of our character," Reinhart said.

Lee will go through re-training at the Great Lakes Naval Station and then transfer to an Ohio-based naval reserve unit where he now lives.

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