Marine veteran and gay rights activist Eric Alva will speak about his work on the repeal of the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and his role as a spokesperson on LGBT issues and the military for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 2, in the Student Union.
"We are very excited to host Eric Alva at UNC Charlotte,” said Sandrine Uwera, student director of Talks and Topics for the Campus Activities Board. “Not only is Alva a truly heroic man, but through his powerful message of hope and confidence he is making the world a better place for all those who have felt the pains of discrimination and hate."
Alva served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 14 years. He was stationed in Somalia and Japan before deploying to Iraq in 2003.On March 21, Alva became the first casualty of the war —the first day of Operation Iraqi Freedom; he stepped on a land mine and suffered the loss of his right leg, injury to his left and permanent damage to his right arm. Alva was awarded a Purple Heart in the wake of the incident and was recognized for his service and bravery by President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Rumsfield. Upon his exodus from the military, Alva was nationally recognized as a war hero.
Close to four years after his retirement, Alva made a life-changing decision. He came out as a gay man and began publicly speaking out against the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
“I had to use my voice,” Alva said. “I had fought and nearly died to secure rights for others that I was not free to enjoy. I had proudly served a country that was not proud of me.”
Alva joined HRC in 2006. He worked with former Massachusetts Rep. Martin Meehan to reintroduce the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, a piece of legislation aimed at repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2007. Alva also began actively touring the nation testifying against the policy’s discriminatory and negative ramifications for U.S. servicepersons. He remains an active spokesperson for HRC today.
Alva’s presentation is co-sponsored by the Center for Leadership Development, and his visit precedes and highlights the University’s observance of National Coming Out Day, Oct. 11.