Cristina Frisby was forced to leave the U.S. Naval Academy when her ill health led to unexpected questioning of her sexual orientation. Despite Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Frisby later joined the California National Guard and served in Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Cristina Frisby hoped to achieve a childhood dream by joining the Marine Corps. She was on her way to realizing that dream when accepted to the U.S. Naval Academy in early 1987.
Unfortunately for Frisby, health and academic setbacks led her to resign from the academy. At her resignation review, her commanding officer asked if she was gay.
“I wanted to be the honest midshipman – I didn’t want to lie,” Frisby later remarked in an oral interview for the Veterans History Project. “I told the truth and got kicked out, versus lying and staying in.”
Frisby learned that she was recommended for a general discharge, knowing that it could threaten any possibility of a future military career. But when it was unexpectedly changed to an honorable discharge, she saw hope for a future in the military.
She returned to her home in Kansas in December 1987 and enrolled at Wichita State University. She considered joining the Army ROTC, but was afraid that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would prevent her from being eligible. The policy prohibited military personnel from asking or disclosing its service members’ sexual orientation, and also barred from service those who disclosed an LGTBQ orientation.
It would be years until Frisby made it. She moved to California and joined the Army National Guard in July 2003, becoming a Wheeled Vehichle Mechanic.
In 2005, Frisby deployed to Iraq with the CARNG’s 113th Medical Company, 2nd Medical Brigade, as a recovery driver and mechanic. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, she and other recovery drivers rescued several soldiers during an IED attack on a convoy. For her actions in battle, she received an Army Commendation Medal with Valor.
For her service in Iraq, Frisby received the Driver’s Badge, the Mechanic’s Badge, and a second Army Commendation Medal. She received an honorable discharge as a sergeant in 2008.
Upon leaving the National Guard, Frisby attended San Diego State University in California for a degree in mechanical engineering and sustainable energy. After graduating, she worked for various sustainable energy companies in California and Arizona. She currently works as a senior engineer for a renewable energy company in Phoenix.
We honor her service.
Quotes and information sourced for this story are hyperlinked in the text.
Writer: Sarah Concepcion
Editor: Alexis Bauer, Joseph Cardinal
Fact checker: Claire Dufault, Enya Lowe
Graphics: Austin Waters