WASHINGTON - Alexander Raggio says he was 16 when he learned one of his relatives was gay -- and watching that person's struggle gave him a grim introduction to discrimination against gays.
He carried those feelings into West Point, and in his senior thesis argued that the military's policy banning gays is not only wrong, but harmful to the Army.
The Pentagon may not agree, but the U.S. Military Academy gave him an award for the paper.
''I love the Army and I think that this is hurting the Army,'' said Raggio, 24, in an interview this week from his new military post at Fort Riley, Kan. 'I see it as my obligation to say 'I don't agree with what you're doing.' I'm not being insubordinate -- I just think we're making a mistake here.''