In Fresno Tuesday night, several former service members who had been impacted by the policy gathered to celebrate its repeal. While the small group gathered at the corner of Shaw and Blackstone holding signs, former Lemoore sailor Jose Cruz stood by, eager to re-enlist. Cruz said September 11 played a big role in his desire to serve. "I saw friends crying because their brothers and sisters were serving and might be going to war and I was like, 'That's what I want to do.' I come from a military family so military was all I knew," said Cruz.
But after six years with the U.S. Navy, Cruz was discharged under "Don't Ask Don't Tell." He and several other former service members told Action News the policy had them living a lie. "It's obviously frustrating and stressful and finally you get to the point where you have to make that change," said Lalo Barocio.
While the former service members celebrated in Fresno, their thoughts were with their comrades still serving. "It's almost bittersweet because I wish if I had stuck it out for a couple of more years, I could be a part of this while serving. So I'll just have to celebrate for my friends that are still in," said former sailor Sabrina Salinas.
Some critics are now concerned about the future of the military. Former Fresno Marine Dan Payne said the country's missions could be in jeopardy because of prejudice that still exists. "If they really, really care about their country and they care about patriotism, then they would realize that joining the military is going to create a disruption of smooth effectiveness. Therefore, they shouldn't join the military, they should do something else," said Payne.
But for Cruz, there isn't "something else". He still considers himself a sailor. He met with a recruiter early Tuesday morning just hours after the ban came to an end.