Today, the military's 17-year-old "don't ask, don't tell" policy expires. The debate leading up to this day has been intense. Needless to say, the decision has been made and the ability to serve openly is now officially on the table.
With experts weighing on on whether or not the policy's expiration will have a radical change on life in the military and with the public continuing to discuss and debate the issues surrounding it, some intriguing stories are beginning to emerge. Soldiers who have thus far served without discussing their sexuality -- some of them while engaging in gay rights activism -- are now coming forward.
First, there's the story of Randy Phillips, a soldier who has taken to social media with the alias "AreYouSurprised." While he initially made public statements and videos about his sexuality without providing his identity, has now made his face known. Gawker has more:
To celebrate the end of the military's ban against openly gay servicemembers, a gay soldier stationed in Germany decided to come out to his family and the world in the most public way possible: by recording a video and posting it on the internet.
Watch his surprising announcement, below:
Then, there's "J.D. Smith," a secretive name that was created when a gay student group in upstate New York needed a speaker to talk about the U.S. military's ban on openly gay troops. In the 16 months since then, "J.D." advised the Pentagon on the policy, became an oft-quoted media commentator on the topic and was a White House guest when President Barack Obama signed the bill paving the way for the ban's appeal.
But as the government's "don't ask, don't tell" policy goes away, so does J.D. Smith, the name a 25-year-old Air Force officer assumed to shield his identity as he engaged in high-wire activism that could have crashed down on his career. Even if no one asks, Air Force First Lt. Joshua David Seefried is telling.
"It's all about leading now," Seefried told The Associated Press as he prepared to come out to his superiors, put a picture of his Air Force pilot boyfriend on his office desk and update his personal Facebook profile to reflect his sexual orientation. "Those are things I feel like I should do because I guess that is what a leader would do. If we all stay in the closet and don't act brave, then the next generation won't have any progress."
Regardless of where one stands on "don't ask, don't tell" and gay marriage in general, these stories are intriguing. Of course, these are only two examples. As the days go on, others will likely make their announcements in unique ways as well.
Tell us what you think of the expiration of this government policy in the comments section below.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.