manzThis is truly awful news:

Relatives and friends say Darren Manzella, the combat medic and U.S. Army sergeant who publicly challenged the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, was killed Thursday, struck by an SUV while pushing a car on Interstate 490.

Michael Manzella of Portland, Chautaqua County, said he learned of his son’s death online and has been trying to find out more about what happened. Numerous Facebook memorials to Manzella have appeared throughout the day.

Cpl. John Helfer of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, said the incident began as a two-car crash on the westbound lanes of the highway in Pittsford, when one car sideswiped another car about 8:30 p.m. Helfer did not identify the man killed.

The man stopped his car in the middle lane of I-490, got out and started pushing it from behind, Helfer said. A sport utility vehicle rear-ended the car, pinning the man between the two vehicles.

He was pronounced dead at the scene, Helfer said. The other two involved drivers were taken to Strong Memorial Hospital with minor injuries.

While serving in the Army, Darren Manzella fought against the 1993 policy that barred gays from disclosing their sexual identity. While serving in Iraq, he appeared on a television news segment and spoke openly about being gay.

As Andy points out, Manzella was one of the most significant public voices in the battle to repeal DADT. Andy quotes the SLDN’s statement at the time of his discharge from the Army:

“The Iraq war veteran was the first openly gay active duty service member to speak with the media while serving inside a war zone….Manzella, 30, enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2002 and was twice deployed to the Middle East in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. While under fire on the streets of Baghdad, he provided medical care to his fellow soldiers, Iraqi National Guardsmen and civilians. He was awarded the Combat Medical Badge, and also received several other awards recognizing his courage and service.”

Our deepest condolences go out to his husband Javier, his family, his friends and other loved ones.