Iraq War Veteran and LGBT Rights Activist
The Distinguished Speaker Series Welcomes Iraq War Veteran and LGBT Rights Activist Eric Alva. Eric Alva was born in San Antonio, Texas, in 1970. Upon graduation from high school in 1989, he attended community college for two semesters, but then decided to join the United States Marine Corps. After serving in Somalia during Operation Restore Hope and spending 10 years stationed in Japan and California, Alva was called upon to serve in the Iraq War.
In January 2003, in the build-up to the war, Alva’s unit, the 3rd Battalion 7th Marines, was deployed to the Middle East. His unit was among the first to cross the border of Kuwait into Iraq for the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Three hours into the ground war, near the city of Basra, his unit stopped to rest. While stepping out of his vehicle, Alva triggered a landmine. The violent explosion threw him 15 feet from the vehicle and left him with a broken left leg; a torn-open, severely nerve-damaged broken right arm; and a badly injured right leg that was later amputated. He had become the first American wounded in the war and the war’s first Purple Heart recipient.
After 13 years of military service, Alva retired as a staff sergeant and went back to college to finish his degree. While at school, he decided to be true to himself and help others by coming out as gay. On February 28, 2007, he joined Congressman Martin Meehan in introducing the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, a bill designed to repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. With this step, he openly admitted to the military and the world that he is a gay man, and one that had served and proudly sacrificed for his country.
Alva took a courageous step toward fighting for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans and, in particular, for those who have served and are serving in the military, but are unable to be true to themselves. His goal is to help achieve civil rights for all U.S. citizens.
Alva worked as the national spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign and its fight to repeal the military’s now defunct LGBT policy. Since coming out, he has been featured in such media outlets as Good Morning America, Anderson Cooper 360°, Live with Paula Zahn, Newsweek, USA Today and numerous other newspaper and radio stations across the country.
Among Alva’s awards and recognitions for his service are the 2003 Heroes and Heritage Award from La Raza, the 2004 Heroes Among Us award from People magazine, the 2004 Patriot Award from the city of San Antonio and the 2008 Public Citizen Award from the National Association of Social Workers. Alva is also the 2011 recipient of the Elizabeth Birch Equality Award, named for the former executive director of the Human Rights Campaign, which recognizes outstanding contributions to the LGBT community.
Alva graduated with a master’s degree in social work in 2009 and continues to live in San Antonio with his two dogs, Bo and Sandy, and continues to work toward social justice.
Tuesday, November 18, 2014