When I posted a letter here yesterday from Marine Lance Cpl. Danny Hernandez to President Barack Obama, I had no idea that Hernandez was a Texan.
Hernandez contacted me this morning to say, “Thanks for the post — and oh, by the way, I’m from Paradise (a town of 400 northwest of Fort Worth near Decatur).”
The 22-year-old Hernandez, discharged from the Marines nine weeks ago for being gay, graduated from Paradise High School and then from Texas A&M University last year. His letter was part of a Servicemembers Legal Defense Network campaign aimed at repealing DADT.
But here’s the kicker: Hernandez said the letter also served his big coming out.
“A lot of my friends called yesterday in shock, because it’s just something I haven’t really mentioned to anyone,” said Hernandez, who’s currently completing a fellowship in marketing and communications for a nonprofit in Washington, D.C.
“I was very hesitant,” he said of publishing the letter, originally intended for his personal blog, “but the more I talked to people the more I realized it is something important and something I wanted to do. Literally at the end of the day, it was just something I could step back from and say, ‘That was the right thing to do.’ And I’m comfortable with the decision I made to have that published.
“Yesterday provided a lot of growth. I’m not 100 percent comfortable with everything, but I’m a lot closer than I ever was. I think that’s the most important thing that came from yesterday, being comfortable in my own skin.”
Even though many of Hernandez’s friends now know about his sexual orientation, his parents and family still don’t. He said he plans to talk to his parents tonight. His younger brother, 18, is an active-duty Marine based in California.
“I think that’s going to be one of the hard things, to confront him,” Hernandez said. “I think they’ll be supportive for the most part.”
Hernandez went to boot camp after his sophomore year at A&M, where he also spent four years in ROTC. He returned to Texas to complete college as a Reserve, with his unit based in Waco.
Upon graduation, he intended to enroll in Officer Candidate School. Then one night at a bar in College Station, he got into a confrontation with some other Marines he didn’t know, and he ended up admitting to them that he was gay.
Nervous they’d out him, Hernandez confided in two friends from his own unit. The friends told him not to worry, but then they proceeded to out him themselves. When he was called in by commanders one weekend during drill, he admitted to being gay.
When Hernandez moved to D.C. in January after being offered a job there, he still didn’t know what was going on with the investigation.
“I never got a letter, I never got a phone call from anybody,” he said. “Basically I kept e-mailing and calling. Finally a friend was able to find out for me, and that is the only way I found out.”
That was nine weeks ago, and Hernandez said he still hasn’t been formally notified of his discharge.
Hernandez said he plans to continue working with SLDN, but don’t expect to see him chained to the White House fence anytime soon. “I don’t know if that’s in my opinion the best way to get the message across,” he said.
But he added that he still hopes to be a Marine again someday.
“There’s no reason why I shouldn’t pursue being an officer once it’s repealed, but it’s just silly that I have to wait for that,” he said. “I have confidence that it’s going to happen, but I don’t know about a timeline.”