October 18, 2021 – “Overcoming adversity” is a phrase used often – and widely – for myriad reasons. Social work lecturer at the University of Texas at San Antonio Eric Alva knows all too well about facing – and overcoming – real adversity.
In his recently published book, Radical Courage, the retired Marine Staff Sergeant shares his story of coming out as a gay man in the armed forces and his unrelenting advocacy for equality in the United States.
Although Alva’s story is powerful and meaningful, he never intended to tell it in book form. “As time goes on, and I continue to witness oppression and discrimination, I knew I had to,” he said. “Telling my story is in the hopes of empowering and inspiring people to be authentic.”
Alva was the first American service member injured in Operation Iraqi Freedom and hailed as a courageous American hero – a title he is a bit ambivalent about.
“I’m not a perfect person,” he said. “But I’m a good citizen. I served my country, I pay my taxes, we help our neighbors. Everyone in this world deserves to be happy, and for [politicians] to come in and try to strip away what I was fighting for – it’s just wrong, and I’m going to speak up for that.”
As a former spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, Alva played an instrumental role in the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on gay, lesbian and bisexual service members, working with members of Congress to end the discriminatory practice.
Alva’s book dives into his experience in navigating complex intersectionalities and his battle for equality in the military, and he uses those examples as a springboard to discuss diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
The book’s title holds significant meaning for Alva, who insists that he doesn’t actually possess more courage than the average person.
“I think we all have courage,” Alva said. “Sometimes we’re afraid to express it because of the fear of being disowned or not welcomed. But everyone has to realize that their life is valuable.”
*Radical Courage is available at all major booksellers.