Sept. 20, 2011 — -- Josh Seefried used to be a man in the shadows.
An Air Force first lieutenant, he was a warrior in the fight to end "don't ask, don't tell."
He created an underground group in July 2010 on Facebook called OutServe, which now connects more than 4,000 gay military members around the world. Seefried said there were close to 500 members in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The network provided service members with a place to share their stories of loneliness, intimidation and fear.
"I think we were in the right place at the right time creating this social network like we did," he said. "I don't think anyone ever thought about this before."
Through it all, he never showed his face or revealed his real name, conducting interviews in silhouette and calling himself "J.D. Smith."
That is until today. When the clock struck 12:01 a.m. this morning, the nearly 18-year-old policy barring gay and lesbian service members from serving openly in the military was fully repealed. And now the 25-year-old from Longmont, Colo., is finally going public.
"I don't know how people are going to react or how people will perceive what's happened over the past year," Seefried said. "I have not only had to live the double life under 'don't ask, don't tell' but a triple-double life in that I have been hiding who J.D. Smith was the past two years."
Under DADT: 'You Feel Like You're Not Part of the Military'
"Serving under 'don't ask, don't tell,' you feel like you're not part of the military," he said, "because the military is always like. 'We don't want gay people serving.' Now that's not the case anymore."
"I knew cadets that were assaulted at the Air Force Academy and they couldn't report any type of those crimes at all," he said, because an investigation would lead to the accuser being outed as gay.
Seefried, who graduated in 2009, said that while he attended Air Force school in Mississippi, a gay instructor learned that he was gay and started showing up at his door and harassing him.
"He started changing my test scores, pulling me out of class, saying inappropriate things to me," Seefried said. "I had no way to report him."
Eventually, he anonymously reported the teacher but said nothing happened.
While Seefried's secret network was growing, the Pentagon was busy looking into just what would happen if "don't ask, don't tell" were repealed.
"Some of these folks have been in the service for 20 years and have had to watch what they say and what they do," said Gautam Raghavan, who was part of a Pentagon-White House group tasked with surveying active-duty gay military members.
"One of the main challenges we had with the working group was finding a way to include the voices of gay and lesbian service members," Raghavan told ABC News. "OutServe became one of the groups that offered to be a conduit to gay and lesbian service members. ... Their input and their ability to connect us with gay and lesbian service members directly was very helpful."
After DADT: 'I Get to Be Truthful ... Conflict Is Now Gone'
Seefried said now he believes he can finally live up to the ideals that first inspired him to serve his country.
"It was everything I wanted to do," he said of entering the Air Force Academy. "It was a dream come true. There is just no other way to say it."
But by his sophomore year in the academy, he was just coming to terms with his homosexuality.
"It was constant fear and not knowing if I was going to be able to stay in the Air Force if this was discovered," said Seefried, now a financial services officer at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey.
"You know I always thought I'd grow out of it or it was something that would go away eventually.
"I get to be truthful about everything," he said. "I get to restore the integrity I once thought I had in the military. That conflict is now gone."
John Ferrugia is an investigative reporter for ABC News' Denver affiliate KMGH-TV.
Josh Seefried's book, "Our Time: Breaking the Silence of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,'" can be purchased here.