An 18-year-old ban on openly gay soldiers known as Don't Ask Don't Tell expires on Tuesday, when the military will officially begin processing applications it has already received from openly gay recruits.

President Barack Obama fulfilled a key campaign pledge when he signed a law overturning the policy last December, and the Pentagon has used the intervening months to prepare for the change.

No one should be left with the impression that we are unprepared, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told The Associated Press. We are prepared for repeal.

Discharged Eligible to Re-Enlist

Instituted under President Bill Clinton, the rule ended the military careers of more than 13,000 gay soldiers who were discharged for revealing their sexual orientations. Now those soldiers will be eligible to re-enlist, assuming they are physically capable, and the U.S. Defense Department will apply the same zero tolerance policy for anti-gay behavior that it does for discrimination against race or religion.

While the overturn effort faced opposition from some lawmakers and members of the military establishment, polls found that a large majority of the American public supported eliminating the policy, as did most troops.

Still, because the federal Defense of Marriage Act continues to deny same-sex married couples federal benefits, same-sex military couples will be deprived of some of the privileges afforded to heterosexual military couples. Stephen Peters, a former Marine who was discharged for violating Don't Ask Don't Tell and who is now dating an active duty Marine grade officer, told The Washington Post that he is unable to receive military discounts or to visit his partner's base without a visitor's badge.

There's still the apprehension of the fact that we have to deal with these issues without the support that other military families get, Peters said. We're kind of left out on our own.