A billboard promoting National Coming Out Day, featuring an image of a US Marine, has been destroyed by vandals in downtown Memphis.

The billboard depicted former Marine Tim Smith, who was fired under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on military personnel, saluting.

The words “I’m gay and I protected your freedom” were positioned next to Smith on the sign, which was paid for by the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center.

On Friday night, however, the billboard was literally torn to shreds, completely obliterating the image on it.

The sign was one of five different billboards featuring local gay people placed around the city marking National Coming Out Day.

“This was a pretty visceral attack symbolically against the community itself and for me as a veteran,” 27 year old Smith told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. “Our response is to voice our concerns louder and stronger,” he added.

The Community Center said that it would restore the billboard and would hold a rally to protest the vandalism.

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