WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 22, 2010) -- President Barack Obama today signed the bill to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on gays in the military.

"No longer will tens of thousands of Americans in uniform be asked to live a lie, or look over their shoulder, in order to serve the country that they love," he said. "So this morning, I am proud to sign a law that will bring an end to 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' It is a law, this law I'm about to sign will strengthen our national security and uphold the ideals that our fighting men and women risk their lives to defend."

The president relayed the story of Pvt. Lloyd Corwin who in the final days of the Battle of the Bulge 66 years ago had taken a 40-foot fall into a ravine during a fierce firefight.

"And, dazed and trapped, he was as good as dead," Obama said. "But one Soldier, a friend, turned back. And, with shells landing around him amid smoke and chaos and the screams of wounded men, this Soldier, this friend, scaled down the icy slope, risking his own life to bring Private Corwin to safer ground."

Continuing the story, the president said Corwin credited his rescuer, Andy Lee as the man responsible for saving his life. Forty years later when the two friends were reunited, Corwin learned Lee was gay.

"He had no idea, and he didn't much care. Lloyd knew what mattered. He knew what had kept him alive; what made it possible for him to come home and start a family and live the rest of his life. It was his friend," said Obama.

"And, he knew that valor and sacrifice are no more limited by sexual orientation than they are by race or by gender or by religion or by creed. That's what made it possible for him to survive the battlefields of Europe. It's the reason that we are here today," added the president.

Quoting Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs, Obama said, "Our people sacrifice a lot for their country, including their lives. None of them should have to sacrifice their integrity as well."

"That's why I believe this is the right thing to do for our military. That's why I believe it is the right thing to do period," Obama said.

Obama thanked Congress who put "conviction ahead of politics" to get the bill done, and he praised Department of Defense leadership for their "courage and vision" in the Pentagon's review, which laid the groundwork for the transition.

"I want to thank all the patriots who are here today, all of them who were forced to hang up their uniforms as a result of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' but who never stopped fighting for this country, and who rallied and who marched and fought for change," he said. "I want to thank everyone here who stood with them in that fight."

The signing of the bill begins the process of implementing the new policy, which will kick in 60 days after the president, secretary of Defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs certify the military's readiness to implement the repeal. Until certification, the old policy remains in effect, the president said.