Entertainment :: Culture

Eric Alva Comes To Chicago

by Angie Berthelsen
Contributor
Tuesday Jun 24, 2008
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Chicago’s 39th Annual Pride Parade Grand Marshall is human rights activist Eric Alva. If you don’t already know who Alva is then here is a bit of his history as well as the cause he is passionately fighting for as spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign.

A Marine for 13 years, Alva was the first American wounded in the first Gulf War. On March 21st 2003 he stepped on a land mine, injuring his leg so that it had to be amputated. Upon receiving a purple heart he was discharged from the military. During his years in the military, Alva constantly had to conceal his sexual identity.

"Being gay in the military is stressful. I had lots of friends that knew I was gay, but you just have to be careful on who you trust and confide in." Alva told Edge. He says he is grateful for his experiences in the military.

"Fighting in Iraq changed my life forever. I am so blessed to be alive. I want to use my injury to show the people of the world what I have sacrificed for the people of this country, not just some of them, everybody," he said.

Alva continues to fight for LGBT rights by working with HRC since 2006. In February 2007 Alva officially came out, becoming HRC’s national spokesman when he joined former Democratic Massachusetts Congressman Martin Meehan to introduce the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, a bill designed to repeal the military’s "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy.

Since coming out, he has been featured on "Good Morning America," "Anderson Cooper 360," "Live with Paula Zahn," "Newsweek," "USA Today," "People" and "Oprah." He has pressed his point in each of those venues.

"Fighting in Iraq changed my life forever. I am so blessed to be alive. I want to use my injury to show the people of the world what I have sacrificed for the people of this country, not just some of them, everybody," he said.

An estimated 65,000 lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans are currently serving in the U.S. Military. So far more than 10,000 people have already been discharged under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

"I believe it is so important to repeal this policy because it is a discriminatory law that exists today promoting discrimination." Alva says.

On Sunday June 29th at Noon, Alva will act as Grand Marshall for Chicago’s Pride parade.

"It just makes me so happy to have this honor for the city of Chicago. It’s like getting an early Christmas gift from the people of Chicago and that is just amazing." Alva exclaimed. Alva will be riding in a classic car near the front of the parade.

Recently Alva was asked why gay people celebrate with parades and pride weeks and months.

"Each person in this world should be proud of who they are," Alva said. "We have Black History month, Hispanic heritage month, and various other celebrations for groups celebrating diversity. People are celebrating their lives and each person should take the time to learn about other people. We all come from different walks of life, and we have so much to offer each other."

Alva plans to continue working for social justice and is currently working on his master’s degree. For more information about Alva, his work with HRC, or how you can help, please visit www.hrc.org.

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