The military's ban on openly gay service officially ended at midnight, and already one member of the Air Force has shared a video of his personal journey out of the closet.
A 21-year-old servicemember who had been keeping an anonymous vlog about his quest to come out to his girlfriend, family, and comrades posted a video of his call to his father this morning to tell him he is gay. His father pauses before saying, "I still love you son. Doesn't change our relationship."
You can watch Randy Phillips talk to his dad below in this ABC Good Morning America segment.
Soldiers past and present have shared their experiences serving under the now-defunct policy in a new book called "Our Time: Breaking the Silence of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'" The book is edited by 1st Lt. Josh Seefried, who organized a group of 4,000 closeted servicemembers called "OutServe" to anonymously advocate for repeal. He shed his pseudonym for the first time today in a New York Times profile.
A second lieutenant in the Marines writes in the book about how a fellow officer, who knew he was gay, saved him from an awkward encounter in a bar. His fellow Marines were pressuring him to hit on a woman at the bar, when his friend, Adam, intervened. "As more and more of our friends started calling me out, I felt myself reaching a point that felt something like panic," he writes. Adam deflected the attention by going to talk to the woman himself. "It's difficult to describe how happy I felt to have made a friend like that."
Jonathan Cagle, a combat medic in the Army National Guard, remembered how painful it was to come home after a deployment in Afghanistan and not be able to embrace his boyfriend. "My boyfriend just had to stand there, a family friend, and politely shake my hand," he writes.
"Coming home from deployment can be a horrible time for a gay soldier," writes Kenneth Sprague, who has been deployed with the Army twice. "While everyone else has friends, family, loved ones there to greet them, your circle of gay or lesbian friends can't really attend, can't run up and hug you and give you a kiss and tell you how much they love you and missed you and are so glad you came home safe. You're so paranoid, you don't even want them there, to make sure nothing slips."
The parents of Army Corporal Andrew Wilfahrt, who was killed in action earlier this year, shared how supportive their son's unit was. "People in his unit knew that he was gay, the wives knew, the girlfriends knew--people knew, nobody cared," his mother, Lori said. "He proved himself first that he was a hard worker and he was a loyal friend, and he was going to take care of them when he could and when he needed to. The other part just didn't matter." His father added, "Being gay was the least interesting thing about him."
You can watch the original video below, sensitive readers be warned that Phillips uses a small amount of profanity toward the end.