It’s over: The United States Army has become the first branch of the armed services to formally end its “don’t ask don’t tell” policy. An announcement is expected for tomorrow, but my Post colleague Ed O’Keefe obtained the actual document sent to soldiers around the globe today announcing the change:

Today marks the end of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” The law is repealed. From this day forward, gay and lesbian Soldiers may serve in our Army with the dignity and respect they deserve. Our rules, regulations and politics reflect the repeal guidance issued by the Department of Defense and will apply uniformly without regard to sexual orientation, which is a personal and private matter.

For over 236 years, the U.S. Army has been an extraordinary force for good in the world. Our Soldiers are the most agile, adaptable and capable warriors in history — and we are ready for this change...

Accordingly, we expect all personnel to follow our Values by implementing the repeal fully, fairly and in accordance with policy guidance. It is the duty of all personnel to treat each other with dignity and respect, while maintaining good order and discipline throughout our ranks. Doing so, will help the U.S. Army remain the Strength of the Nation.

Separately, the military has begun accepting applications from openly gay recruits. Though there wasn’t any serious doubt about the policy being officially repealed, some gay activists had remained guarded until the end. “Seems this is for real,” John Aravosis noted with relief today.

It’s easy to forget this — after all, repeal passed Congress and was signed by the president a full nine months ago — but even when repeal seemed within reach, success was anything but assured. It only came after a nearly pitch-perfect effort by Obama and the military leadership to create the political conditions necessary to bring about repeal, as well as well as some very shrewd public and private gamesmanship by Senate leaders that left GOP moderates with little choice but to do the right thing. It will be endlessly debated whether Obama and Dems did this in response to outside pressure, but the fact is, they did it.

The understated language in the Army’s announcement, its simple restatement of what seems so right, just, and true, serves as a reminder that this should have been a no-brainer all along. Indeed, the quietness of the announcement makes it sound like repeal was a no-brainer. The magnitude of our current challenges — and the volume of ongoing political rancor — risk making the successful securing of repeal seem in retrospect like a sideshow. But make no mistake. It was an extremely hard-fought win — a massive victory for common sense and decency over bigotry and legalized discrimination. At a difficult moment, it stands as a sorely needed reminder that progress remains possible. Let’s not forget it.