Nine years ago, Lee Reinhart was discharged from the U.S. Coast Guard under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” On Monday, he became one of the first of over 14,000 servicemembers discharged under DADT to officially re-enlist. At a ceremony in his original home of Chigago, Ill., he was sworn into the Navy Reseve by his former congressman.
Reinhart started his military career in the Navy, spending four years there before leaving to attend college. He told the Chicago Tribune that he actually came out to an officer during his time in the Navy, when the stress of hiding became too much. Instead of discharging him, the officer told Reinhart to get back to work and to let him know if anyone gave him trouble.
After the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, he decided to rejoin the military, this time as a member of the Coast Guard. He was discharged less than a year later, after he couldn’t bring himself to lie about his sexuality.
This past summer, he joined Equality Ohio as a community organizer. Director of Programs and Outreach, Kim Welter, took to Facebook to offer Reinhart her congratulations, saying, “Thrilled to announce that Equality Ohio community organizer Lee Reinhart is one of the first soldiers dismissed under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy to be allowed to re-enlist, and he is joining the Navy Reserves at the same rank as when he was dismissed for being gay. We will miss him one weekend a month, but this is what progress looks like.