Eric Alva

Eric Alva


The first American wounded in the war, and the war’s first Purple Heart recipient. Eric is now using his notoriety and courage to fight for the rights of LGBT Americans, and in particular, for those who have served and are serving in the military the freedom to be who they are.


Human Rights Campaign Spokesman & Retired Staff Sergeant and Iraq War Veteran

Eric Alva was born in San Antonio, Texas in December 1970. Upon graduation from high school in 1989, he attended community college for two semesters, but then decided to join the United States Marine Corps. After serving in Somalia during Operation Restore Hope, and ten years of being stationed in Japan and California, Alva was called upon to serve in the Iraq War.

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 landmine. 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.

After 13 years of military service, retiring as a Staff Sergeant, Alva went back to college to finish his degree. While at school, he decided to be true to himself and help others, coming out as gay. On February 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. Alva took a courageous step towards fighting for the rights of GLBT Americans, and in particular, for those who have served and are serving in the military, but are unable to be true to themselves. 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 the military’s discriminatory GLBT policy. He is also part of the nationwide tour, “Legacy of Service” to speak out against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Since coming out, he has been featured on Good Morning America, Anderson Cooper 360°, Live with Paula Zahn, Newsweek, USA Today, and numerous other newspaper and radio stations across the country.

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 2007 Public Citizen Award from the National Association of Social Workers.

Alva is currently studying social work at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, where he lives with his partner Darrell and their two dogs, Champ and Bo. He will graduate from college in 2008, and then hopes to pursue a career working with diverse groups and continuing to work towards social justice.



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