By Ben Fractenberg, Yepoka Yeebo and Jordan Heller
TIMES SQUARE — After the Pentagon informed military recruiters Tuesday that they must accept gay applicants, Iraq War veteran Dan Choi headed to the Times Square recruiting center to re-enlist.
"I'm gonna try to enlist in the Marines today," Choi, one of the most prominent critics of the federal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, posted on his Twitter page Tuesday.
"Anyone else can meet me at NYC Times Sq now," he added.
Lt. Choi graduated from West Point and served in Iraq before the Army kicked him out in July because he announced publicly that he was gay.
But he was among the first to sign back up to serve his country Tuesday, following a court decision forcing the Army to allow gay and lesbian applicants into the armed services.
"It's about serving the greater good," said Choi, 29, as he arrived at the Times Square Recruiting Station at West 42nd Street and Seventh Avenue Tuesday afternoon.
"We're asking soldiers to sacrifice, we shouldn't also ask them to lie," he added of the highly controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which prevents homosexuals from serving openly in the military.
The Pentagon's actions came after a federal court struck down the policy last week. While a dispute over the decision plays out, Defense Department officials had little choice but to comply with the ruling.
Justin Elzie, 48, of New Jersey — the first marine ever investigated and charged under DADT — also showed up to support his friend Choi.
"This is a very important moment in our country," Elzie said. "I'm getting chills up and down my spine."
About 100 others gathered outside the recruiting center as Choi was inside signing up for service. After he exited, the former lieutenant held his enlistment papers in the air to a chorus of cheers from the crowd.
After explaining that he was too old for the Marines, Choi said that the Army was happy to have him.
"They were very excited that I had prior service," he said. "Tomorrow they'll finish up processing."
Choi said that it was integral to national security that openly gay people be able to serve their country honestly, while "acknowledging their partners, acknowledging their families and their lives as full citizens.
"Being in there was absolutely exciting, absolutely vindicating, validating of our purity of service," he said.