Just weeks after getting married in July, former Army sergeant and “don’t ask, don’t tell advocate Darren Manzella was killed in a car crash Thursday night in Upstate New York. He was 36.
Manzella, a combat medic who served in Iraq in 2004, had become one of the familiar faces in the fight to bring down the federal government’s ban on openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members. He was discharged months after coming out on 60 Minutes in 2007, but later said his announcement was worth it the risk.
“I gave voice to the tens of thousands of men and women who serve everyday under the fear of DADT,” he said in a 2010 letter to President Barack Obama.
Since the ban was lifted in 2011, Manzella reportedly joined the Army Reserves, and worked at the Canandaigua Veterans Affairs’s crisis call center. On July 5, he married his husband Javier Lapeira-Soto in Rochester, N.Y.
“We will always remember Sgt. Manzella as someone who had the courage both to fight for his country and to change it,” New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said in a statement to the Rochester Democrat Chronicle.
Manzella was killed in a two-car collision on I-490, in Pittsford, N.Y., according to the report.