WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) -- Marine Lance Corporal Danny Hernandez was among the last people discharged for his sexual orientation -- now he may be among the first to apply to re-enlist.
The 24 year old has already signed papers to regain the Marine career he worked so hard for. "I started the process two months ago."
But the Pentagon's offering "no preferential treatment" for discharged gay and lesbian service members. And Hernandez knows the odds may be against him. "The economy.... A lot of people are going into the military right now. All the branches have met their quota for the year."
Hernandez dreamed of becoming a Marine since age 14, following a long family tradition. At 5'3 and 85 pounds, boot camp was tough. "My senior drill instructor came up and said, 'I have no idea how you carried all those packs and never once faltered.'"
Two years later he was out -- exposed as gay after he stood up for his girlfriends at a bar, and confronted by his 1st Sgt. "I'm standing there, the only thing she says is 'Are you gay?' And I said 'yes...I wanted to cry, but I was in uniform and I was not going to cry."
Hernandez now works full time for the Servicemember Legal Defense Network, just blocks from the White House, and right next door to the American Legion. "The fact of the matter is most people in the military know someone who is Gay or lesbian and does their job just fine."
He still hopes to rejoin his little brother, who told his Marine comrades a story as they prepared to bury Don't Ask, Don't Tell. He stood up and said, 'My brother was discharged last year. This policy needs to go.'"
As much as Danny Hernandez would like to go back to his country, he also realizes he may be holding on to a dream out of reach. He's considering a legal career -- perhaps specializing in military law.... and maybe a chance to help other servicemembers who find themselves in difficult circumstances.
Written and Reported by Bruce Leshan
9News Now & wusa9.com