Former Army sergeant who fought "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" killed in Route 490 crash

Posted at: 08/29/2013 9:57 PM
Updated at: 08/30/2013 10:28 PM
By: News10NBC/Associated Press

A former army sergeant discharged from the Army after criticizing the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in a 2007 television was killed while he was pushing his vehicle on Route 490.

The crash happened around 8:30p.m. near the Route 31-F exit on Route 490. Investigators say 36-year-old Darren Manzella's car was hit by another vehicle and Manzella stopped in the middle lane and he got out and began pushing it from behind. That's when deputies say Manzella was struck by a third vehicle. Deputies say Manzella was trapped between the two cars and died at the scene. The drivers of the other two cars also suffered minor injuries and were transported to the hospital.

Manzella, who lived in Rochester, was discharged from the Army after criticizing the military's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy in a 2007 television interview.
His aunt, Robin Mahoney, on Friday confirmed his death. Manzella lived in the Chautauqua County town of Portland; he and his partner were married in July.
Manzella's December 2007 appearance on "60 Minutes" from the combat zone in Iraq was followed by his discharge in June 2008 for "homosexual admission," a violation of the since-rescinded policy prohibiting service members from openly acknowledging they are gay.
After the television appearance and his return from Iraq, Manzella did media interviews, each a potential violation of the policy.
"This is who I am. This is my life," Manzella said at a Washington news conference before his discharge. "It has never affected my job performance before. I don't think it will make a difference now. And to be honest since then, I don't see a difference because of my homosexuality."
Manzella said he first told a military supervisor about his sexual orientation in August 2006, while working in a division headquarters at Fort Hood, Texas. Three weeks later, his battalion commander told him an investigation had been closed without finding "proof of homosexuality." A month later, he was sent to Iraq.
His supporters said the overseas assignment demonstrated how the military was arbitrarily enforcing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy during the war.
Manzella enlisted in the Army in 2002. He was awarded the Combat Medical Badge for service in Iraq. When he was discharged, he was a sergeant serving at Fort Hood with the 1st Cavalry Division.