The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Veteran addresses DADT policy


Monday, Mississippi State University students will have the opportunity to listen to Eric Alva  who will be speaking on his internal and external struggles.

 Alva is known for being the first American soldier to be wounded during the war in Iraq.  In 2003 he stepped out of his vehicle onto a land mine. The explosion left him with a broken left leg, a severely nerve-damaged right arm and a badly injured right leg that had to be amputated.

Alva served in the military for 13 years before retiring as a staff sergeant. 

Afterward, he came out publicly as being gay and spoke out about the struggles of having to keep his sexuality a secret. 

“I realized that I had fought and nearly died to secure rights for others that I, myself, was not free to enjoy,” Alva said in his blog.  “I had proudly served a country that was not proud of me.”

He became a strong proponent of the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, an act to repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. 

The policy prohibited military personnel from discriminating against unprofessed gays but also forbade men and women who openly confess to being gay from serving in the military. 

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was officially repealed Sept. 20, 2011.

Spectrum, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning student organization, and the Holmes Cultural Diversity Center, a center for assisting and promoting minorities on campus, have partnered to bring Alva here to MSU in celebration of LGBT History Month.  Maria White, the director of the center, said Alva will be speaking on his efforts to change the nation’s military policy.

“He’ll be talking about the repeal of the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy and various difficulties faced by military gays and lesbians,” White said.  “He will bring a message of hope and confidence for all those who have felt the pains of discrimination and hate.” 

Harry Hawkins, Spectrum president, said MSU is very lucky to have the opportunity to hear someone of such magnitude speak.

“This is history; he’s an army hero for being the first man to be injured in the war, but he’s also a social justice hero,” Hawkins said.  “This is a man who stood by President Obama when he signed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ into repeal.”

Kristen Sims, the previous president of Spectrum, was the one who originally worked to bring Alva to MSU after hearing him speak at Mississippi University for Women.  Sims said although he will obviously be an important voice for the gay and lesbian community, he brings together a broad variety of other people to his audience.

“I wanted him to come because I felt that he reaches such a large crowd,” Sims said.  “Even if you’re not gay, lesbian or transgendered, respect is something anyone can relate to.”

In addition to talking about the difficulties he endured trying to hide his sexuality from everyone around him, his speech will encompass his struggle to overcome his tragic injury from the war.  Sims said Alva does a great job tying together roles mainstream society does not usually think about.

“Most people don’t associate an openly gay man with serving in the military,” Sims said.  “He’s shown that you can be gay and be a true patriot for your country as well.”

Both Spectrum and the Holmes Cultural Diversity Center strongly encourage students to attend and learn from Alva’s story.

“Students can learn about the importance of perseverance,” White said.  “Alva teaches us the importance of becoming a catalyst for change.”

Alva will be speaking at Lee Hall Oct. 3 at 7 p.m.  Admission is free. 


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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
Veteran addresses DADT policy