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Posts for June, 2010

Mayor Krieger, meet Maj. Rogers, a fallen hero who happened to be gay

Jason Cianciotto

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.

Jason Cianciotto and Major Alan G. Rogers at Jason's wedding on June 28, 2006

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.

Major Alan Rogers – the Rest of the Story

Timothy Kincaid

July 29th, 2008

rogers.jpg In March we learned of the death of Army Maj. Alan G. Rogers, a man praised by the Pentagon and lauded in the Washington Post and on MSNBC. And we observed the mainstream media try to hide the truth of Maj. Rogers’ life, that he was a gay man actively working to reverse the ban on openly gay servicepersons. Then we read as the Post’s ombudsman chided the paper for the deletion (unknowing that she was leaving out facts of her own).

We even saw how some friends and distant family angrily tried to hide or deny his orientation and how someone at the Pentagon attempted to change information in Rogers’ Wikipedia entry.

Now the New Yorker has an 8 page article detailing Rogers’ life and laying rest to any rumors or misunderstandings. It is well worth reading.

Deputy Secretary England attended a memorial service at the Pentagon, where Thomas Gandy, a director of counterintelligence and human intelligence, hailed Rogers as “simply the most talented officer I ever had the opportunity to serve with,” and described his selflessness in taking wounded veterans at Walter Reed hospital to a Super Bowl party on a nearby base. “There was something special about Alan Rogers,” Lieutenant General John F. Kimmons, the deputy chief of staff for Army Intelligence, said. “He was more than he seemed.”

And indeed he was.

And there was much more behind the story of efforts to hide his orientation. The New Yorker did not find malice or a conspiracy, but the type of well-intentioned homophobia that assumes that a hiding one’s orientation protects a reputation.

Rogers was both more secretive and more honest than many of those who knew him really wanted to believe about him. He was a brave man, a good man, a loving man, and the embodiment of the evidence that those who seek to keep this discriminatory ban operate from a base of foolishness, ignorance and bigotry.

Pentagon Tries to Hide Maj. Rogers’ Orientation

Timothy Kincaid

April 3rd, 2008

rogers.jpg We commented earlier on how the mainstream media omitted all mention of Major Alan Rogers’ orientation or of his efforts to overturn the military’s ban on open gay servicemen. We told you how the Washington Post ombudsman wrote a column to repair that deliberate exclusion. Now there’s a new twist.

According to the Washington Blade, Rogers’ profile on Wikipedia has been modified

The user on Monday redacted details about Rogers that appeared on the online encyclopedia site. Information that was deleted included Rogers’ sexual orientation; the soldier’s participation in American Veterans for Equal Rights, a group that works to change military policy toward gays; and the fact that Rogers’ death helped bring the U.S. military’s casualty toll in Iraq to 4,000.

And while the individual responsible isn’t known,

The IP address attached to the deletion of the details and the posted comments is 141.116.168.135. The address belongs to a computer from the office of the Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence (G-2) at the Pentagon. The office is headed by Lt. Gen. John Kimmons, who was present at Rogers’ funeral and presented the flag from Rogers’ coffin to his cousin, *Cathy Long.

The factual information has been reinstated in the Wikipedia entry.

* Long is the cousin that was unaware of Rogers’ orientation and thought it should be left out of the Post article.

Post Ombudsman Reports on Hero’s Orientation

Timothy Kincaid

March 30th, 2008

On the 22nd, the Washington Post ran a story on the death of a war hero omitting the fact that he was gay. We, among others, found that this did a disservice to Maj. Rogers.

Rogers had been very active in the efforts to overturn Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and I have little doubt that he would want his death to serve the same cause as his life.

Today Deborah Howell, the post’s ombbudsman wrote a column that clarified the process that went into striking this part of his life from the story. It reads as a tale of casual institutionalized heterosexism.

The reported knew of Maj. Rogers orientation and of his efforts to fight against DADT. She knew that he would want the world to know that gay men and women were fighting in Iraq with honor and dignity and giving their life for their country. The editorial staff said, “no”.

St. George first wrote a story that included his friends talking about his orientation; some at the paper felt that was the right thing to do. But the material was omitted when the story was published. 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.

It is difficult to know what proof Downie required.

But within this story is, I believe, an illustration of how many heterosexuals view gay people.

Rogers’s cousin, Cathy Long of Ocala, Fla., said that she was the closest in the family to him. To her, “The Post did a wonderful job. Personally, as far as the family is concerned, we really didn’t know about this until after his death. It was in the back of our minds, but we didn’t discuss it.” She is glad The Post story did not say that he was gay. “I really feel Alan was a lot more than that.” She thought the Blade story was “self-serving whatever their cause is and that they’re trying to use Alan to do that.”

Shay Hill, his beneficiary and University of Florida roommate, said that he and Rogers were “like brothers” and that he knew Rogers was gay. “He worked to change the system from within. You don’t out yourself to make a point. Just because he’s gay should have no more relevance than I’m straight. It’s not fair to make a bigger deal out of this than it needs to be.”

Much was made that Rogers “didn’t have family”. Because to heterosexuals, decisions about life and death should be made by those with the same genes – or those linked by marriage (from which we are excluded). So a distant cousin – one Rogers didn’t feel comfortable discussing his life with – gets to decide that Rogers was “more than that”. And it matters little to her, or the straight college roommate or the straight editorial staff that the “self-serving cause” that the Blade was advocating is a cause that Rogers fought for.

Yet again straights get to decide that being gay is irrelevant and a bit of a dirty little secret. And those people that Rogers spent time with… well they are gay or socialized with gays so obviously they are just activists and their opinions can be dismissed. And the straights can hide behind “proof” and the notion that telling someone’s orientation somehow diminishes them.

Thank you Deborah Howell for giving dimension to Maj. Rogers’ life. Perhaps some day such exclusions will not require the help of an ombudsman.

(thank you to Jason Cianciotto for bringing this column to our attention and for giving his own testimony for his friend Maj. Alan Rogers)

An Irrelevant Fact

Timothy Kincaid

March 28th, 2008

rogers.jpgThis month the Washington Post told us:

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.”

And MSNBC filled in:

His parents passed away and he was divorced with no children. But he had his friends, one of whom he contacted just hours before his death.

Rogers was a hero, the media told us. But like so many heros, they just forgot to mention that he was gay. Well, you never know, this man who was active in D.C. chapter of the American Veterans for Equal Rights (a group dedicated to overturning Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell) just might not want people to know his dirty little secret. Ya know?

The Washington Blade has the story.