March 20, 2010 9:19:00 PM
The Gordy Honors Forum Series will feature Iraq War veteran Eric Alva Thursday, March 25, at 6 p.m. at Nissan Auditorium in Parkinson Hall on the campus of Mississippi University for Women. He will be speaking on the topic "Ending ''Don''t Ask, Don''t Tell.''" The event is free and open to the public.
Born in San Antonio, Texas, in 1970, Alva served in the United States Marines for 13 years. He served in Somalia during Operation Restore Hope, and for the next decade was stationed in Japan and California.
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 land mine. 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.
Alva retired as a staff Sergeant, and recently completed his degree in social work from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. On Feb. 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. His goal is to help achieve civil rights for all citizens of the United States.
Alva is the national spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign fight to repeal "Don''t Ask, Don''t Tell." He has been featured on broadcasts including "Good Morning America" and "Live with Paula Zahn," and in publications such as Newsweek and USA Today.
Among Alva''s awards and recognitions for his service is the 2003 Heroes and Heritage Award from La Raza, the 2004 Hero''s 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.
For more information about Thursday''s program, contact Dr. Tom Velek at [email protected]