(Dec. 15) -- A leading activist fighting to end the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military was involuntarily committed to a Veterans Affairs psychological ward this weekend after a nervous breakdown, AOL News confirmed today.
Lt. Dan Choi, who was arrested three times this year for chaining himself to the White House fence to urge the Obama administration to end the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, informed close friends via e-mail Tuesday night that he had been in the VA hospital since Friday in Brockton, Mass.
Choi, reached by phone by AOL News at the facility, acknowledged that the e-mail was from him but said, "I'm not talking to reporters right now."
The 29-year-old Iraq war veteran and West Point graduate was discharged from the U.S. Army in July after coming out in March 2009 on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show." Since then, he has been a ubiquitous presence on TV talk shows and at protests demanding the end of the military policy.
In the e-mail to bloggers Pam Spaulding and Rex Wockner, Choi wrote: "I was involuntarily committed to the Brockton MA Veterans Hospital Psychiatric Ward on Friday morning after experiencing a breakdown and anxiety attack.
"I did not initially want to publicize this but I now realize it is critical for our community to know several things: Veterans, gay or straight, carry human burdens. Activists share similar burdens, no activist should be portrayed as superhuman, and the failures of government and national lobbying carry consequences far beyond the careers and reputations of corporate leaders, elected officials, high-powered lobbyists or political elites. They ruin lives.
"My breakdown was a result of a cumulative array of stressors but there is no doubt that the composite betrayals felt on Thursday, by elected leaders and gay organizations as well as many who have exploited my name for their marketing purposes, have added to the result."
Choi's last post to his Twitter feed before his hospitalization bemoaned the failure last week by the U.S. Senate to proceed with a vote to end the gay military ban: "Today is a very painful day. I simply advise you to never stop fighting."
It was unclear who committed Choi or under what circumstances. In Massachusetts, records related to commitment are not public unless a government entity such as the police file charges against a citizen. A clerk in the Plymouth County courts said there were no recent charges against Choi.
Choi's fellow activists were saddened but not surprised by the turn of events. Robin McGehee, a co-founder with Choi of the civil disobedience protest organization GetEQUAL, said the stress was clearly beginning to overwhelm Choi.
"He's been suffering from exhaustion and continual work on this, the emotional and physical toll of being in what feels like a battle since the very beginning of this year," said McGehee who was arrested along with Choi those three times in Washington, D.C., and once in Las Vegas.
"He's had highs and lows. Last week, with the debacle of what happened in the Senate, it was very tough."
In Las Vegas, Choi and McGehee halted traffic on the Las Vegas Strip in July, demanding that Senate Majority Harry Reid, D-Nev., take action on various gay rights efforts. Later that week, Choi also confronted Reid at Netroots, a conference of liberal bloggers, giving the senator his West Point class ring and discharge papers.
Reid vowed at that event to keep Choi's ring in a safe place until "don't ask, don't tell" is repealed. Choi shook Reid's hand and embraced the senator in the conference's most emotional moment.
The House of Representatives today is deliberating whether to pass a bill to repeal "don't ask, don't tell. Senate leaders, including U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., have said they have enough votes to repeal the policy if it is in a stand-alone bill. The effort that failed last week would have added repeal to a defense appropriations bill.
Another fellow activist, openly gay and discharged Army Capt. James Pietrangelo II, told AOL News that the pressure on Choi came not only from frustrations with Congress and the White House but also from some gay people who accused Choi of being a glutton for attention.
"Through all Dan's activism, he's been accused of trying to profit from his activism and they called him a media whore," said Pietrangelo, who was arrested with Choi at the three White House fence incidents. "The real truth is that Dan has gone through what Martin Luther King Jr. went through. It's been a real sacrifice to Dan, and he's put himself in the line of fire again and again. He's taken a lot of wounds. And he never complained about it."