Air Force Veteran Josh Seefried grew up knowing he wanted to serve in the Air Force. It started when his parents sent him to Space Camp in fifth grade, offering him the experience of a lifetime. The next summer, he participated in Aviation Challenge, getting the chance to fly and engage in aerial combat through a simulator. In seventh grade, he petitioned his congressman to get him into a shadow cadet program at the U.S. Air Force Academy, a program reserved only for high school students.

After high school, the Air Force Academy officially admitted Seefried as a student and he could not be happier. Yet, his enchantment with the Air Force – and the military more generally – soon turned into trauma. Seefried was gay and was blackmailed and exposed while serving under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

In this episode of Borne the Battle, Seefried shares his life’s story, from being blackmailed and outed as gay to becoming one of the nation’s foremost advocates for LGBT active-duty service members. He discusses:

  • When one of his academy teachers found out he was gay and blackmailed him for favors
  • Being outed as gay
  • How his superiors treated him when investigating his blackmail case
  • Using social media to stake out a space for LGBT members of the military to communicate
  • How he helped fellow service members come out after Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed

An early part of Seefried’s strategy to change the military’s culture for its LGBT members included the novel use of social media. At a time when social media platforms like Facebook were still new, Seefried formed online groups that connected thousands of LGBT service members.

Seefried regularly appeared on major broadcasting networks under the pseudonym “JD Smith,” advocating for the LGBT military community. But after President Obama signed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010, Seefried publicly came out.

After years of LGBT advocacy, Seefried left a lasting mark on the military. He entered the Air Force with high hopes and left it a place that he could feel proud of having been a part of.

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Calvin Wong is an intern with VA’s Digital Media Engagement team. He studies History as an undergraduate at the University of California, Davis.

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Published on Jun. 7, 2021

Estimated reading time is 2.7 min.

Views to date: 286


  1. William JPieczara June 12, 2021 at 11:19 am

    I enteredt service in 1981, I was aked straight-out how I felt about serving with gay soldiers. I filled out a military quetionaire that asked me my personal thoughts on serving with homosexuals. Being from a small town in NJ, I did not know much about that partcular community and when saked if I were “Gay” I answered No. I stated I did not feel to comfortable sleeeping with a gay soldier in a foxhole. I was underthe impression back in 1982 when I joined it was not permissable for gays to enter the service, and that is why I joined the United States Army.”
    ” No Gays is Ok Motto for me”. I got out in 1986 as a decorated 1st Lieutenant. I still do not believe thst homsexual fit into the miltary lifestyle, after living in it for 5 years.. There are too many situations that require very close soldier to soldier contact, and I do not believe this isnot 101 conducive to buildingand maintaining a strong miltary force. . When I joine the Army, the Homosexuals were still in “the”closet”.

    1st Lt. William J Pieczara (USAR) (ret).

  2. This June 10, 2021 at 2:01 pm

    As someone who served before and after DADT, in 2002 we had openly gay people serving with us and they did nothing to them.

  3. A Vet June 10, 2021 at 12:27 am

    Thank you for the interview with Mr. Seefried. This was an eye-opening podcast on the experience of a gay serviceman before the repeal of DADT. Thanks for helping me to accept him and others who before were in the closet. He’s absolutely correct to say that after the repeal nothing really changed, except people stopped living in fear.

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