A Soldier’s Journey

Army Major Stephen Snyder-Hill will speak at UM about serving in the armed services before, during, and after DADT.

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UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (November 18, 2014) — Army Major Stephen Snyder-Hill clearly remembers the moment he admitted to himself that he’s gay. It was 1991, during the first Iraq War, and the 20-year-old soldier was curled up in a ball inside the driver’s hatch of his vehicle. The explosions were homing in on him, and as he waited for the blast that would end his life, he focused on a photo of his brother and his brother's girlfriend taped above him. He promised himself that if he survived, he would stop living a lie and allow himself to find true love.

Twenty years later, Snyder-Hill went back into the closet to serve again in Iraq, this time under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, a flawed policy that resulted in the discharge of thousands of servicemembers because they are gay. Days after DADT was repealed, he submitted a video from Iraq asking the candidates in a 2011 Republican presidential primary debate if they would reinstate the policy, should they be elected president. The audience booed him on national television, but the reaction served only to ignite his inner activist. From CNN and MSNBC to Time magazine and a 20-minute segment on The Newsroom starring Jeff Daniels, major media outlets covered Snyder-Hill’s courage to “out” himself to the world before he even told his fellow soldiers.

Snyder-Hill will be speaking to the University of Miami community on Thursday, November 20, about serving in the armed forces before, during, and after DADT, as well as his ongoing fight for marriage equality. Following the talk, he will host a book signing for his memoir, Soldier of Change: From the Closet to the Forefront of the Gay Rights Movement (Potomac Books, 2014).

“For the first half of my 20 years in the military, I struggled with my sexuality,” Snyder-Hill says. “For the second half, I struggled with the injustice of being denied freedoms that, as a gay soldier, you risk your life to protect—for everyone else. My unexpected overnight fame was a wake-up call. My husband, Joshua Snyder-Hill, and I could no longer sit back and wait for marriage equality to happen. We had to make it happen, one grassroots effort at a time.”

Snyder-Hill balances his duties as an Army reservist and registered dietitian in Columbus, Ohio, with a rigorous speaking schedule at universities, pride parades, and community centers about the importance of fighting for civil rights. Through their online advocacy group, Marriage Evolved, Snyder-Hill and his husband are raising awareness about LGBT issues among nearly 30,000 followers. Last June, they rented a bus to transport 25 same-sex couples from several states to Washington, D.C., where the couples were married on the steps of the Supreme Court days before the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) ruling.

Snyder-Hill’s lecture and book signing begins at 5 p.m. in the Student Activities Center, Activities North and South Rooms. Attendance is free but RSVP is requested at http://www.as.miami.edu/wgs/resources/wgs-events/solider-of-change/.

Meredith Camel, M.F.A. '12, who served as editor of the book, Soldier of Change, works in University Communications and can be reached at 305-284-1616.

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