“Dad, I’m gay.”
With those three emotion-drenched words, a 21-year-old U.S. soldier stationed in Germany reveals in a phone call to his father in Alabama what he had long kept secret but could now finally share with Tuesday's official repeal of the military's 17-year "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
The soldier, who goes by the online moniker "areyousurprised," captures himself on video telling his father something he says he's "known since forever" but was afraid to share. He posted the video to YouTube, and it quickly went viral.
The soldier was among numerous U.S. military members who "came out" on Tuesday, guaranteed that they will no longer be punished or booted out of the service because of their sexual orientation.
The soldier doesn't give his name, and in previous YouTube videos chronicling his experience as a gay man in the military is careful not to show his face. But in the latest video, titled "Telling my dad that I am gay," he faces the camera directly, sitting in a room with a world map draped on a wall behind him.
The Washington Post identified him as Randy Phillips and said the video was recorded with his web camera in his bedroom at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
The soldier fidgets nervously as he tells viewers it's early Tuesday morning and he hasn't been able to sleep. He then calls home on his mobile phone.
In the captivating five-minute conversation that follows, he reveals his sexual orientation to his father.
“Can I tell you something?” he asks.
"Yeah," the father replies.
“Will you love me, serious?”
"Yes," the father says.
“Dad, I’m gay.”
The soldier explains that "I’ve known since forever" about his sexual orientation and has been aching to tell his family for a long time.
"I don’t know when’s the next time I would be able to see you. I didn’t want to do it over the phone. I wanted to tell you in person, but uh … I didn't want you to find out in any other way.”
After a period of silence, the father says, "OK."
And then came the reassurance.
"Will you still love me?" the soldier asks.
“I still love you, son. Yes, I still love you,” the father replies.
Viewers touched by the video posted multiple comments of praise and support.
"You are the epitome of honestly, integrity, and your good southern manners show through as well. Congrats on being your true self, and thank you for your continued service to our nation," one person wrote, adding, "I am proud to call you a gay brother."
"His father loves him unconditionally. How many times do you see this," another wrote.
Other service members also came out in dramatic ways, and said they're relieved to finally not have to hide their private lives from their straight colleagues while serving the country.
Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan, who serves with the New Hampshire National Guard, announced on MSNBC on Tuesday that she is a lesbian.
"I have a 4-year-old daughter and in civil union with a same-sex spouse for almost 11 years.
“I have not been able until today to actually share my family, my complete family," she said.
"I’m (now) able to put on my desk our family photo and actually share my family with my colleagues that I deployed with.”
More than 100 U.S. military members revealed their sexual orientations on Tuesday in the first publicly distributed issue of OutServe Magazine, according to Germany's Spiegel Online. Their photos are shown under an article titled "101 Faces of Courage."
OutServe says there are approximately 70,000 currently serving military personnel stationed around the world who are lesbian, gay, transgender or bisexual.
Eddy Sweeney, an intelligence officer, and Jonathan Mills, a radio frequency transmissions technician, told Spiegel Online they came up with the idea of a publication for gay service members while they were both stationed at U.S. Air Force bases in Germany.
"When you're stationed overseas, there are fewer Americans, so you don't have the luxury of making too many friends outside of the military community," Sweeney told Spiegel Online. "And when you meet someone in the military who happens to be gay and also happens to be stationed abroad, you form a kind of secret society."
U.S. Marine Maj. Darrel Choat, a Nebraska native, he knew he was gay when he signed up for the military 14 years ago. He said talk about other Marines threatening to leave the force over the acceptance of gays is nonsense.
"When they say, 'Well, you know, I couldn't share a fighting position with a Marine that's gay,' or anything like that, I say, 'Wow. So gay Marines have that much power that they can totally disarm you and defeat you just by their simple presence? And you call yourself a Marine? Come on, dude. What's your problem? Get over it.' "
Choat told NPR he's planning to go to the Marine Corps ball in November, as he does every year — only this time, he'll bring a date.
Dan Choi, the former Army lieutenant who was discharged from the military after coming out on "The Rachel Maddow Show" in March 2009, told Politico he will re-enlist after Tuesday's DADT repeal. Choi became an outspoken gay-rights activist after his discharge and wrote an open letter to President Barack Obama in which he criticized "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" as "a slap in the face" to him and his fellow soldiers.
He told Politico he will meet with a military recruiter later this week to talk about joining the Army Reserves.
"Going back to the military will be a vindication,” Choi told Politico. "[I’m] going back because I fought to go back. The seriousness of our claims was not just political theatre – it was really drawn from our lives. I sacrificed so much so I could go back.”
In Vermont, Navy Lt. Gary Ross and his partner, Dan Swezy, celebrated the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" by getting married. Vermont is among six states that recognize same-sex marriages, and the Arizona couple chose Duxbury's Moose Meadow Lodge, a log cabin bed-and-breakfast perched on a hillside about 15 miles northwest of Montpelier, for the site of their nuptials. The lodge says it hosted the state's first gay wedding in 2009.
Ross wore his dress uniform for the occasion. "I think it was a beautiful ceremony. The emotions really hit me ... but it's finally official," Ross said.