Death of 4000th U.S. soldier in Iraq shines spotlight on gays in the military
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
The January occasion of the death of the 4,000th member of the United States military in the Iraq War brought renewed focus on the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) policy towards LGBT service members, according to the Washington Post and other media sources.
US Army Major Alan Rogers, a civil rights activist in the gay, lesbian and bisexual military veteran community is the first known LGBT soldier to die in combat in Iraq. He was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star, according to reports.
Rogers' funeral gained national media publicity, initially on MSNBC, in the Washington Post and on National Public Radio's (NPR) Morning Edition; however, initial reports omitted Rogers' sexual orientation or anything related to the subject.
The Post and Morning Edition reports coincided with the "grim milestone" that the US military death toll reached 4,000 dead. Rogers' death and funeral gained further media attention when it was revealed that he was gay and worked to end the military's DADT policy.
Initially, members of the national media were well aware of Rogers' sexual orientation, and it was widely reported that Rogers was not married and left no children. While technically accurate, the omission of Rogers' sexual orientation was viewed as an intentional distortion by some members of the LGBT community.
The Washington Post ombudsman, Deborah Howell, wrote that the editors of the Post deliberated the question of whether to disclose his sexual orientation and ultimately made a decision not to include such information.
The Army asked that Rogers' sexual orientation not be disclosed, and the Army presented it as a concern of the family, according to news reports.
The Washington Blade, a newspaper for the Washington LGBT community, reported on the Post's decision to change the story and included more details about Rogers' activities and friends in the LGBT community.
Subsequently, Howell of the Washington Post, citing Rogers' apparent feelings on DADT, wrote a column admitting that the Post's article “would have been richer” had it disclosed his sexual orientation and activities in the LGBT community.
Rogers was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery on March 14, 2008.
- Howell, Deborah. "Public Death, Private Life" — , March 30, 2008
- Sullivan, Andres. "The Daily Dish" — , March 28, 2008
- Johnson, Chris. "Media, military kept soldier in closet after death" — , March 27, 2008
- Inskeep, Steve. "Report: American Death Toll in Iraq War Hits 4,000" — , March 24, 2008
- Smith, Tony. "Our Whole Self And Whole Story: Honoring My Friend and Hero, Major Alan G. Rogers" — , March 24, 2008
- St. George, Donna. "Army Officer Remembered as Hero" — , March 22, 2008
- Rutherford, John. "Army Officer was a Best Man in All Senses" — , March 14, 2008
- Doug Finger. "The Funeral of Major Rev. Alan G. Rogers" — , February 8, 2008
- Voyles, Karen. "One final homecoming" — , February 7, 2008
- "DoD Identifies Army Casualty" — , January 29, 2008