Gay San Diegans Ready to Serve Again | NBC 7 San Diego

Gay San Diegans Ready to Serve Again

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    After 17 years, “don't ask, don't tell” is history. The US senate voted Saturday to repeal the controversial policy that prevents gays from serving openly in the military

    From celebration to skepticism -- San Diego's reaction to the news ran the full spectrum.

    “Uplifting. It takes that burden off my back. I don't have to worry about this anymore,” said Will Rodriquez Kennedy, who was discharged from the Marine Corps.

    Gay rights activists and veterans told us they were surprised by the historic vote. It sent a message heard loud and clear, that change is coming.

    “Of course I'm overjoyed, I mean, I get my life back.  So many of us get our lives back, whether they want to join again or not, this is a healing process for a lot of people,” said Joseph Rocha, who was discharged from the Navy.

    Some veterans told us they were caught off guard by the vote.

     “I'm a little surprised.  But at the same time I believe it's a sign of the times. You have to move forward. This is basically how things are going nowadays,” said Navy veteran Tom Majsterski.

    Some felt that “don't ask, don't tell' was working just fine.

    ”I understand their desire to be more open about their lifestyle and that's fine but I think in the military, there's a greater potential to cause problems there than most work places,” said Navy veteran Brian Wauer.

    The change won't take immediate effect, however. The legislation says the president and his top military advisers must certify that lifting the ban won't hurt troops' fighting ability. After that, there's a 60-day waiting period for the military.

    Rocha says he can to go to Iraq and Afghanistan as soon as he’s needed.

    “That's the kind of calling that those of us who join the military have. I just want to be back in uniform and in whatever capacity I can best serve my fellow troops and this country,” said Rocha.

    Repeal means that for the first time in U.S. history, gays will be openly accepted by the military and can acknowledge their sexual orientation without fear of being discharged.

    “I want to thank the many of my colleagues in Congress for their hard work in making this a reality. But the real appreciation goes to the former service members and activists whose tireless efforts led to this historic moment. They kept the faith that America will live up to its principles of equality,” said Congresswoman Susan Davis (D) San Diego.

    More than 13,500 service members have been dismissed under the 1993 law. Before that, they had been explicitly barred from military service since World War I.