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CHICAGO (CBS) – The military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on homosexuals serving in the armed forces comes to an end on Tuesday and gay men and women will be allowed to serve openly.
The repeal comes four years after Marquell Smith says he was kicked out of the U.S. Marines for being gay.
As CBS 2′s Dana Kozlov reports, Smith is making a video that he hopes will help other young, gay service members who have struggled in the military like he did.
“By the time it was all said and done, I think I was extremely angry. I felt that the organization that I volunteered to, you know, give my life in defense of my country — had turned their back on me,” Smith said.
Smith was a proud Marine sergeant, who served from 2000 to 2006, when he was discharged. Since then, Smith has fought to bring equality to the armed forces. For him, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is almost a personal victory.
“To be able to say … I did this, I was a part of this and I’m so happy that we were able to accomplish this,” Smith said.
Smith is by no means alone. His close friend and Air Force veteran Omar Columbus said he painfully hid his sexual orientation for almost two decades.
“It’s an amazing thing now to say no matter where we go now, you can be yourself,” Columbus said.
Equality Illinois Policy Director Randy Hannig said fighting against discrimination is a top priority.
But not every veteran is on board with the repeal or even gays serving in the military.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” said Navy veteran Kelin Suddoth. She said she believes there’s a safety concern.
World War II veteran Anthony Jodycki said, “I would think there would be nothing but disruption among the troops.”
Smith said he realizes there are skeptics, but he hopes that changes.
Asked if he wants to go back into the Marines, Smith said, “you know, it’s a bittersweet kind of thing, I’m kind of unsure.”
Smith received an honorable discharge in December and has gotten his benefits back. He’s also fighting to be reinstated, although even if that’s granted, he believes he might be a more effective activist as a civilian.