U.S. Navy Seaman August Provost III, the black gay sailor found brutally murdered at Camp Pendleton ten days ago, was laid to rest with full military honors in Houston,
Although the family maintains the 29-year-old Provost was the victim of a hate crime—and the Navy says it was a "random act" of violence— Seaman Provost's mother, Melonie Collins, set that question aside at the funeral, reports the Houston Chronicle.
Friends and family praised Provost for his “powerful love” of all people, never caring about sexual orientation or race. Only one longtime family friend, Allie Harrison, alluded to concern over whether the gay sailor's death was a hate crime. "I believe with all my heart the truth will be revealed and any lies uncovered," she said from the pulpit.
Provost was shot three times, apparently gagged and bound, and his body burned. The seaman told his family he was harassed and ostracized at Pendleton for at least a year because he was gay and black. Provost's commander at Camp Pendleton, Capt. Ed Harrington, attended the service and said "he was unaware of any such complaints" being made. Harrington tells KHOU-TV (video): "I don't think it was [a hate crime] but no one is ruling that out yet .... because the invesgtigators want to be absolutely thorough. But the evidence does not point to that."
Under the military's failed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, if August Provost reported the harassment, that would have been considered "telling" and lead to immediate discharge, notes San Diego City Commissioner Stampp Corbin, who also is black and gay. "August Provost, and others like him, are often harassed because of the perception they are gay or lesbian ... That is the quandary gay and lesbian military personnel face in these situations."
Perhaps not-so-ironically, as the Houston Chronicle reports on the funeral services for this distinguished seaman who quite likely was killed because he was black and gay, many of the readers' comments are homophobic and at least one is racist. Several readers quite Biblical passages against homosexuality. Reader Argon96 writes: "The mi8llitary is full of weirdos today,straight and gay...I doubt he was targeted for being gay,but who knows." Another comment by ULoveHuessein, apparently deleted by the newspaper, said there were "many fags" in the Marines and a reference to "jungle fruit." Provost was a U.S. Navy Seaman serving at a Marine Corps base, which is standard procedure.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee, who represents Houston, says she will demand a congressional inquiry into the death of Navy Seaman August Provost III. The Secretary of the Navy has also dispatched 20 investigators to Camp Pendleton.