June 19th, 2010
The following is a reprint of an opinion editorial in the June 19, 2010 edition of the Arizona Daily Star. It reflects the views of the author and may not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.
Maj. Alan Greg Rogers was killed by an improvised explosive device during his second tour of duty in Iraq on Jan. 27, 2008. I wish Yuma Mayor Al Krieger could have met Alan – his life and ultimate sacrifice exemplifies why Krieger owes gay and lesbian servicemembers far more than a faux apology for his recent statement about “limp-wristed” soldiers.
Over a decade earlier, Alan and I became friends while he was stationed at Fort Huachuca. His life was as complex as it was inspiring – he was adopted at 5 years old, an intelligence officer in the Army, an ordained Baptist minister, African American, and he also happened to be gay.
Alan loved serving his country, loved his Christian faith and was proudly gay. He not only refused to forsake any part of himself because of anti-gay discrimination, he gave his life for his country despite that discrimination.
After his burial in Arlington National Cemetery, The Washington Post published a story about Alan’s life, lauding him as a hero, the recipient of two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart. However, many of us who knew Alan were struck by what wasn’t part of the story: the fact that he was openly gay and worked to overturn “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Criticized for excluding such a significant part of Alan’s life, the Post admitted that “there was enough evidence – particularly of Rogers’s feelings about ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ – to warrant. . . . adding that dimension to the story of his life. The story would have been richer for it.”
In August 2008, that complete story was told by New Yorker magazine, in “A Soldier’s Legacy: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but Alan Rogers was a hero to everyone who knew him.” In the article, Alan’s friend Shay Hill shared that Alan believed “you don’t change the system by alienating those who are against you. You change the system by trying to convince those who are against you.”
Alan would have appreciated the opportunity to meet Krieger because he believed in creating change as an insider.
For example, as one of only 25 officers sent to Georgetown University in 2004 to earn a master’s degree in public policy, Alan analyzed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” for his thesis. He concluded that repeal “would yield higher readiness rates, save potential millions of dollars in investigations and discharge processing of gays and improve our overall national security posture.”
It was risky for Alan to write about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” while still enlisted, but he wanted to be a living example of why the military has more to gain than lose by welcoming gay soldiers.
He protected his 20 years of service by making personal sacrifices, including the ability to settle down with a partner while he was still enlisted. This was one of Alan’s goals when he retired, which he planned to do after returning from Iraq. He never had the chance.
In a letter Alan wrote to accompany his will, he concluded, “I know that I am going up yonder to be with my Lord. Please tell those who remain not to grieve too much but to have a big party and celebrate. . . . My only regret is that I have never found that special one to grow old with and watch the sunset with.”
It’s time to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – for Alan and for the estimated 65,000 gay and lesbian soldiers who risk their lives for their country. If Krieger took the time to get to know even just a few of these heroes, I know he would agree.
For more information about Alan’s life, media coverage after his death, and a link to a PDF of his master’s thesis about “Don’t Ask, Don’t, Tell,” check out his biography page on Wikipedia.
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Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
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Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"
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