Reichen Lehmkuhl is perhaps best known for dating pop star Lance Bass of N'Sync fame or winning a $1 million on the adventure reality show "The Amazing Race." But before Lehmkuhl's name hit celebrity magazines, he was an Air Force captain living with a secret: He is gay.
And as far back as he can remember, Lehmkuhl had dreams of being in the Air Force.
"It was a childhood dream to fly, and then it came more of an adult dream to not just fly but to … [go to] the Air Force Academy and to be an officer, to be a leader in the U.S. Air Force," he told ABC News.
But Lehmkuhl said when he entered the Air Force Academy, he was living with the secret of his sexuality.
"And I remember the panic that came over me at that moment realizing, 'What am I going to do? Am I going to be able to change this? How can I admit this?' " he said.
"And it was all happening just within me, all internal 'cause I couldn't talk to anybody about it," he said.
While the 1993 "don't ask, don't tell" policy prohibited military personnel to question fellow soldiers about their sexual orientation, Lehmkuhl said it offered little protection for a gay captain hoping to maintain his privacy and his dignity.
"There was definitely an institutionalized acceptance of people being homophobic and telling gay jokes and making homophobic remarks -- really, really mean homophobic remarks to the point of, 'Kill gay people,' " he said.
Speculation grew about Lehmkuhl"s sexual orientation until one night, when he said he was sent a message. He said he was sexually assaulted by the people he served beside everyday.
"A bag was put over my head," he said. "I was stripped of my clothes. I was forced to do things sexually with two other male cadets."
Lehmkuhl said that night he hit rock bottom and considered ending his life.
"That's when you start having suicidal thoughts, and that's when you start saying, 'Oh my God. I am so stuck in this situation. I can't go to anyone,' " he said.
He kept silent about the incident, and served out his commitment to the Air Force.
Since his departure from the Air Force Academy five years ago, Lehmkuhl's fortunes have changed for the better.
He won $1 million after taking first place in season four of the reality adventure show, "The Amazing Race."
Now, the 32 year old works as a model and actor.
He said he's in a stable relationship with former pop star, Lance Bass, who admitted that he is gay back in July.
"I'm really proud of Lance," Lehmkuhl said. "I'm really proud of the way he has handled everything. And a lot of what I saw in what he dealt with in coming out are things that I dealt with when I came in the public eye."
Lehmkuhl now hopes his story will help prompt the military to take a more critical look at the policy on gays -- a policy, he said, that is simply failing.