TWO years ago, Maj. Andrea Hollen, the top-ranked female in the first coed class to graduate from West Point in 1980, faced an agonizing decision. After a stellar career in the Army, including command of a Signals company in West Germany, she was in line for a professorship at her alma mater. But, in the years since graduating No. 10 in her class, Hollen had discovered something even more important than her military career. "I fell in love with a woman," she says, for the first time publicly. "I'm gay."

Rather than conceal her sexual orientation, Hollen resigned from the Army. "I realized I faced living out the rest of my career constantly equivocating and, on some occasions, perjuring myself," she explains. "I was in tears. Everything I had worked for, I lost. But it would have been an indignity for me to live my life that way."

Now 35 and an environmental consultant in Denver, Hollen, who broke up with her first gay partner last year and is now in another relationship, hasn't fully adjusted to civilian life. "Although I love the work I do," she says, "I miss the military. I wish I were still an officer."