Tributes to a fallen hero; but wait,
what about Dont Ask, Dont Tell?
I have been sitting on this post for a day or two. So, I now have the right amount of information to be able to comment. A controversy has erupted in Washington D.C. over the combat death of Major Alan Rogers on the 27th of January and the failure of the Washington Post to disclose his sexual orientation during recent coverage.
Army Officer Remembered as Hero
Friends, Fellow Soldiers Mourn Loss of 'Exceptional' Man
by Donna St. George
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 22, 2008; Page B03
He was a soldier first, and that was clear when Army Maj. Alan G. Rogers was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. Rifles were fired. A bugler played taps. An Army chaplain said the decorated officer would be remembered as "one of the heroes of history."In a recent posting by Deborah Howell, Ombudsman of the Paper, she corrected the oversight very well but still left open some very harsh wounds and questions that we in the GLBTIQAS Community need to take a serious review of and introspection as to where our moral stand should be and why.
Rogers, 40, was killed by a makeshift explosive device in Baghdad on Jan. 27 while in a Humvee. "As God would have it," his commanding officer wrote to his family in a letter, "he shielded two men who probably would have been killed if Alan had not been there."
Rogers was a military intelligence officer who had worked at the Pentagon, served in the Persian Gulf War and was on his second tour in Iraq. When he was killed, he was attached to the 4th Infantry Division as part of a team that was embedded with and trained Iraqi soldiers.
"What an exceptional, brilliant person -- just well-spoken and instantly could relate to anybody," Col. Thomas Fernandez, his commanding officer in Iraq, said in an interview. "He had a gift. He was unlike anybody I've met before."
The Army officer was awarded a Purple Heart posthumously and his second Bronze Star, then laid to rest March 14 at a morning service set against the bare trees of March and attended by more than 150 mourners. Friends and fellow soldiers came from as far away as Iraq and South Korea.
Public Death, Private Life
What should a newspaper print about a person's most private life in a story after his death?
The Post ran a story March 22 about the burial at Arlington National Cemetery of Army Maj. Alan G. Rogers, a decorated war hero killed in an explosion in Baghdad. The subject of much journalistic soul-searching, the story did not mention that Rogers's friends said that he was gay and was well known in local gay veterans' circles. The Washington Blade, a gay-oriented newspaper, identified him as gay in a story Friday that was critical of The Post.
For The Post, Rogers's death raised an unanswerable question: Would he have wanted to be identified as gay? Friends also struggled with that question but decided to tell The Post that he was because, they said, he wanted the military's "don't ask, don't tell" rule repealed. Yet a cousin and a close friend felt that his sexual orientation was not important; his immediate family members are deceased.
Many editors discussed the issue, and it was "an agonizing decision," one said. The decision ultimately was made by Executive Editor Len Downie, who said that there was no proof that Rogers was gay and no clear indication that, if he was, he wanted the information made public.
Downie said that what Rogers's friends said and the fact that Rogers was a former treasurer of American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER) were not enough. Downie pointed out that many straight journalists belong to the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.
Downie's ruling was in line with The Post's stylebook policy. "A person's sexual orientation should not be mentioned unless relevant to the story . . . . Not everyone espousing gay rights causes is homosexual. When identifying an individual as gay or homosexual, be cautious about invading the privacy of someone who may not wish his or her sexual orientation known."[... 5 IP....]
Sharon Alexander, director of legislative affairs for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, was a friend of Rogers and lobbies for the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." She ultimately concluded that he would have wanted "that part of his story to be told to help move the issue of repeal forward."
The Post was right to be cautious, but there was enough evidence -- particularly of Rogers's feelings about "don't ask, don't tell" -- to warrant quoting his friends and adding that dimension to the story of his life. The story would have been richer for it.
Finally the last comment on this I am pulling from Steve Ralls @ BILERICO.
Steve's tribute is the one that made me decide to finish and make this post. In the concluding nine paragraphs of his post he expresses outrage but also asks some serious questions about our future and what this situation reveals about the ongoing debate in this country over gays and lesbians serving in the military or issues of equality in general.
[... 3 IP....]
The conversation surrounding his tragic death has been off-point, and, as a result, Americans are being denied an historic opportunity to discuss the enormous sacrifice our LGBT neighbors and loved ones are making in defense of freedoms abroad that they are often denied right here at home.
I first met Alan a few years ago, during a fundraiser here in Washington. He was, as his commanding officer also observed, "an exceptional, brilliant person -- just well-spoken and instantly could relate to anyone." He had offered to allow a friend from San Francisco to stay with him while visiting D.C. for the weekend, and we instantly became friends. After the fundraising dinner concluded, he asked if I wanted to go to the now-defunct gay dance club Nation, which was hosting a Madonnarama party that night.
We had a blast. Alan was effervescent, full of joy and just one of the nicest people anyone could hope to meet. After that night, we stayed in touch, meeting for cocktails and dinners and emailing each other about what was happening in our lives. Alan had an enormous heart and always cared about everyone in his life. And he had a deep commitment to the United States military and his work as an Army Major.[...9 IP....]
It is situations like this that should call the public to review their biases and the country to take an honest hard look at what we truly mean by We The People and All Men Are Created Equal. Major Rogers was not equal, he was exceptional! He has offered his life along with not being allowed equality based on whom he chose to love. How much more prejudicial can America become?
A lot of my friends and kids are exceptionally serving silently as Service Members of the seven different branches of the Uniformed Forces proudly. I am a military brat and if I could have I would be serving my Country also.
These laws were not started until after 1916 under the bad influence of Calvinism by those who held the Office of President and need to be repealed by Congress today. We need to stand up and say no longer will this discrimination happen in the land of the free, and the home of the brave!
[NOTE: ...#IP.... denotes numbers of paragraphs edited, no number just means one.]
[NOTE: Other articles by F6 on Gays in the Military and Links are found in this forum.]
[CITE: Here is the correct link to the Washington Blade story as cited in the last two articles.]
Seven branches? I thought it was only four: Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines?
You are not mistaken just misinformed. The other three branches of the United States Uniformed Services aren't always "armed". There is the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service under the direct command of the Surgeon General; The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, under the Secretary of Commerce; and of course the United States Coast Guard, under the Secretary of Homeland Security which is both armed and uniformed.
There is another Tribute by Tony Smith of Maj. Alan Rogers
@ The Gay Military Times hosted by Denny Meyer