Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Eric Alva

Staff Sgt. Eric Fidelis Alva was the first American to be wounded in war in Iraq, and he was a gay Marine. On March 21, 2003 Alva stepped on a land mine, sustaining heavy injuries to his leg and arm. The injuries were so severe that his leg couldn't be saved and was amputated.  After Alva was medically discharged, he was awarded a Purple Heart medal, a combat military decoration  awarded to members of the armed forces who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy.

On February 28, 2007, Alva joined over 100 members of the House of Representatives to introduce legislation that would repeal the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy against gays in the military. Three and one half years later the policy was repealed, on September 20, 2011. Alva told Congress, "I'm an American who fought for his country. Who'd have ever guessed the first American wounded was a gay Marine?"

Alva, a native of San Antonio, Texas, joined the marines at age 19 and was a member of the 3rd Battalion of the 7th Marines. Serving in the military was Alva’s dream. In 1990, the 5-ft-1-in-tall Alva enlisted in the Marine Corps. He made it through the rigors of boot camp and went on to serve for 13 years. In 2000, he was promoted to Staff Sergeant.

"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, so that explains why my middle name is Fidelis. Fidelis means faithful.”

In 2003, Alva received the Heroes and Heritage Award from La Raza. People magazine honored him with the Heroes Among Us Award (2004). He received the Patriot Award from the city of San Antonio (2004), and the Public Citizen Award from the National Association of Social Workers (2008).

Joe Solmonese (L), President of the Human Rights Campaign, embraces Alva (R) during the singing of "God Bless America" after Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi signed legislation repealing the military policy at the U.S. Capitol December 21, 2010 in Washington, DC. The bill was signed by President Barack Obama the next day.

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