As we covered the first day of the military’s legal acceptance of gay and lesbian troops, the story of Air Force Senior Airman Randy Phillips vividly captured our attention.
Clearly nervous and exhausted, Phillips, 21, walks into the camera’s frame and sits at his bedroom desk with a map of the world behind him.
“I’m probably about as nervous as I can ever remember being,” he said. “I’m about to call my dad in Alabama.”
“Can I tell you something? Will you love me, serious?” Phillips asks his dad once he reaches him.
“Yes,” his father replies.
“Dad, I’m gay,” Phillips says, as his voice drops.
“Yikes,” the father said.
“Do you still love me?” Phillips asks him again.
“I still love you, son. Yes, I still love you,” his father replies, adding later, “It doesn’t change our relationship.”
The video quickly went viral, and Phillips said it inspired an older colleague to pick up the phone and call his parents with similar news.
“If it helped one person, then it’s all worth it,” he said in an interview Tuesday from Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
He said a similar phone call to his mother “wasn’t quite as easy” and his sisters are now also aware. He decided to tell his family this week after sharing the news with other colleagues and friends.
In May, in a video that purposely cut out his face, he lamented the stress associated with being gay.
“I wish this wasn’t something that wasn’t expected of me,” he said. “I wish I went along with what my parents planned for me, and what they thought I would develop into, and it’s not.”
He noted that “so many people don’t agree with it” back home in Alabama and in the military.
Earlier this month, with his follower tally on the rise, Phillips answered a series of questions submitted by his fans. (According to the video, he doesn’t really watch movies, he doesn’t have a tattoo, he doesn’t cook and he enjoys Thai food.)
Now he’ll likely be most remembered for broadcasting to the world his deeply personal moment with his father.
“Last night I sat down with the phone in my hands and kept putting it off,” he said. And after four hours, he finally made the call.
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Read some of Ed O’Keefe’s reporting on “don't ask, don’t tell”: