Family and friends of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" activist Darren Manzella gathered in Washington Thursday to remember the life and legacy of the 36-year-old former Army Sergeant.
The Iraq War veteran was discharged under the country's former policy of restricting homosexuals from openly serving in the military after he came out on "60 Minutes.” After his discharge in 2008, he joined the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network fighting to repeal "Don't Ask Don't Tell."
Nearly two months after he married his partner in July, Darren died while pushing his disabled car off Route 490 in Pittsford after a minor crash. Monroe County Sheriff's Deputies say that's when he was hit by another car.
Although his life was cut short, Darren's mother Nancy Manzella says her son's fight for gay rights has created a legacy.
"I think people can learn from Darren that if they put their mind to something and work towards it, that they can achieve their goal," said Manzella. "He's touched so many lives with this, I think it's gone from "Don't Ask Don't Tell" even into gay marriage, affecting that."
Gays, lesbians and bisexuals can now serve openly in the military. In 2010, President Obama signed the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" Repeal Act which took effect in 2011.
Manzella was a native of Portland, Chautauqua County. An assistance fund has been established in his name to provide emergency relief for veterans living in the county.