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USA military kept soldier in closet after death

 
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BerichtGeplaatst: Vr Mrt 28, 2008 1:58 
   Onderwerp: USA military kept soldier in closet after death
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The death of a gay soldier in Iraq is drawing renewed attention to how the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy — and the mainstream media —
help ensure that gays stay in the closet, even in death.

Maj. Alan Rogers, 40, a gay intelligence officer who served on a military transition team that trained Iraqi soldiers, died Jan. 27 in
Baghdad from wounds caused by an improvised explosive device that detonated near him while he was conducting a patrol on his Humvee. He was
buried at Arlington National Cemetery on March 14.

For sacrificing his life in the line of duty, the Army posthumously awarded Rogers a Purple Heart and a second Bronze Star.

Tony Smith, a friend of Rogers’, described him as “very positive” and “very outgoing.” Smith and Rogers worked together in the D.C.
chapter of American Veterans for Equal Rights, a group that works to change military policy toward gays. Rogers was out to friends in the
Washington area, but “had to obviously be careful [about being out] to too many people because he was active duty military,” Smith said.

Rogers, a D.C. resident since about 2004, entered the Army in 1990 and served in the first Persian Gulf War and was on a second tour of duty
in Iraq when he died.

Mainstream media coverage of Rogers’ death coincided with the grim milestone of 4,000 U.S. service members killed in Iraq and the five-year
anniversary of the invasion. But the media reports about Rogers’ death omitted any mention of his sexual orientation. The Washington Post,
National Public Radio and the Gainesville Sun, the local newspaper in his hometown of Hampton, Fla., made no mention of his sexual
orientation or his involvement with a group that works to overturn “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Lynn Medford, Metro editor for the Post, said the newspaper debated whether or not to disclose Rogers’ sexual orientation and ultimately
decided not to include such information as a matter of ethics. Rogers to some degree “kept his orientation private” and outing him after
his death would “take a decision out of his hands,” she said. Rogers had no partner and no immediate family to consult with to determine
what his wishes would be, Medford noted.

“We had no way of knowing what his wishes were, and that’s what we came down and decided on,” she said.

Deborah Howell, ombudsman for the Washington Post, reiterated that Post editors decided there was no proof Rogers was gay and no evidence
Rogers would want to be publicly known as gay after death. The Post has a policy of not mentioning a person’s sexual orientation unless it
is germane to the story, she said.

“They just felt it was a matter of privacy and they neither knew his wishes nor felt comfortable with [discussing his sexual
orientation],” she said.

Karen Voyles, who wrote articles on Rogers for the Gainesville Sun, said she did not include information about Rogers’ sexual orientation
because she found no evidence that Rogers was gay.

“It just never came up,” she said. “We covered this as a casualty of the war, and that wasn’t something that anybody addressed.”

Steve Inskeep, who covered Rogers’ funeral for National Public Radio, did not return calls seeking comment.

Smith said he thinks it’s very important for Rogers’ “whole story to get out,” including information that he was gay.

“It’s something I know that Alan would want,” he said. “I don’t know why they decided to leave the story out that he was gay, but … it
saddens me as a gay veteran myself. It saddens me that part of his life … can’t be told.”

Both of Rogers’ adoptive parents are deceased and he was the only child in the family. His closest living relative is his cousin, Cathy
Long, who lives in Florida, sources said. An intermediary said Long did not want to comment for this article.

Donna St. George, a Post staff writer who wrote about Rogers’ funeral, said she received an e-mail from an Army casualty officer stating
that the deceased’s family was “nervous” about how Rogers was going to be portrayed in the Post article. The casualty officer did not
mention the word “gay” or the phrase “sexual orientation” in the e-mail, St. George said. A decision had already been made about how the
Post would handle Rogers’ sexual orientation by the time the e-mail was received, although the article was not yet published, she said.

Shari Lawrence, spokesperson for Army human resources, did not return calls seeking comment.

Galen Grant, a retired Army captain and psychologist at a Department of Veterans Affairs clinic in South Carolina, said that although the
military “is proud to flaunt [Rogers] as one of the soldiers, they want it kept secret that he was gay.”
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