Army Sargent Darren Manzella, the first active duty combat
servicemember to publicly disclose that he was gay, has died. He was
Manzella died Thursday night in a tragic automobile accident in
suburban Rochester, New York.
and Chronicle quotes Cpl.
John Helfer of the Monroe County Sheriff's Office as saying that
Manzella stopped his car in the middle westbound lane of Interstate
490 after his car sideswiped another about 8:30 PM. Manzella got out
of his car and started to push it from behind when he was struck by
an SUV. Helfer said that Manzella was pronounced dead at the scene.
In 2007, Manzella revealed to 60
Minutes' Leslie Stahl that he
had been serving openly. He said that he acknowledged to superiors
investigating him that he was gay without incident.
Manzella enlisted in the U.S. Army in
2002 and was twice deployed to the Middle East in support of
Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was awarded the Combat Medical Badge for
providing medical care under fire during the Iraq war.
After CBS aired the story, the Army
handed down a determination of ineligibility, and Manzella was
discharged under “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” in 2008. The policy,
which prohibited gay troops from serving openly, was repealed three
Steve Ralls, who coordinated Manzella's
coming out on 60 Minutes, told gay blog Bilerico.com
that Manzella knew that he would be discharged for speaking out.
“That's how passionate he was about
ending this policy,” Ralls said.
Manzella and Javier Lapeira-Soto
married on July 5. A friend said that he had recently rejoined the
military as a reservist.