Gay Vet And DADT Activist Darren Manzella Dead At 36

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADarren Manzella, a gay combat medic discharged after publicly coming out in 2007, was killed in a traffic accident on Friday in western New York.

According to the AP:

The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office said Manzella was driving on Interstate 490 in suburban Rochester about 8:30 p.m. Thursday when his vehicle sideswiped a car. Deputies said he stopped his vehicle, got out and began pushing the car from behind. He was then hit by an SUV, pinning him between the two vehicles. He died at the scene.

Manzella enlisted in the Army in 2002 and was awarded the Combat Medical Badge for his service in Iraq. He came out in a December 2007 appearance on 60 Minutes, becoming the first openly gay service member on active duty to speak to the press from a war zone.

He was discharged in June 2008 for violating Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which would be repealed three years later. Free to serve openly, Manzella had recently joined the Army Reserves. “Being in the military and serving was a very important part of his life,” Manzella’s lifelong friend, Anne Colwell Colangelo told the Democrat and Chronicle. “He was very proud to be a soldier.”

Manzella is survived by his family as well as his husband, Javier Lapeira-Soto — the two had just gotten married in July.