But, "it begs the question as to whether someone who serves quietly without incident [can serve as well] as someone who is out of the closet," said Jeffrey Bell, a conservative activist and former Reagan adviser.
As active duty personnel have come out in the past year, Alan Shepherd, Tanya Domi, Karen Stupski and others have helped their comrades as part of a loose-knit network.
While they say they have never recruited anyone to the ban effort, they have counseled service members, asking pointed questions to underscore the consequences of such a decision.
They have provided emotional support, tried to prepare them for the expected media attention and helped find attorneys, including some of the best in Washington, to fight their pending discharges.
Mr. Vershure is still getting calls from gay servicemen with "perfect credentials" who are asking for advice.
"It's hard for me to tell them to come out," said Mr. Vershure, who recognized early on Lieutenant Thorne's potential to be what some call the "poster child" for fighting the ban. "What did Tracy have to lose? We were facing the prospect of another Republican administration. Now we don't know where these people [congressional opponents] are headed."
When Lieutenant Thorne appeared on ABC-TV's "Nightline" May 19, he expected he would be out of the Navy in three weeks.
"Eleven months later and I'm still here," said Lieutenant Thorne, a weapons system operator who has been relegated to clerical work until the president acts. "All we want to be able to do is stand up and tell the truth and do our job without worry of reprisal by any ancient policy based in bigotry and hatred."