There is a bittersweet ending to the story of Maj. Alan Greg Rogers, an ordained pastor, a U.S. Army Major and intelligence officer who was the first confirmed gay combat fatality of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Rogers was killed in January 2008 when his Humvee was struck by an improvised explosive device while on patrol in Bagdad.
"Pals decorated Maj. Alan Rogers' grave at Arlington National Cemetery Saturday with flowers, a rainbow-colored lei, a Christmas wreath and congratulatory notes. 'Alan, we did it,' one note read. Tony Smith, 40, of Alexandra, Va., said he was one of the first friends to reach Rogers grave after the historic vote. 'I was at the cemetery listening to the radio as Senate voted to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell,' said Smith. He said he went to Rogers' grave in section 60 and told him the good news. He said Rogers 'would have been proud' his effort were not in vain."
Rogers was known in the gay military community, and active in groups as the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network in the effort to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". Rogers' supervisors were also aware of his sexuality, writes Daily News columnist Michael Daly.
"After the honor guard ceremoniously folded the flag from [Rogers'] coffin in Arlington National Cemetery, it was presented to a cousin. ... The Army asked his surviving family to refrain from discussing it. Not that they likely would have anyway. 'We really didn't know about this until after his death,' Cathy Long, the cousin who was presented with the folded flag, was later quoted saying. 'It was in the back of our minds, but we didn't discuss it.' "
"Statistics dictated that more than 200 gay soldiers and marines have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, none of them able to list a special someone. The war drags on and more fine Americans will be buried in Arlington, no doubt some of them gay. At least they will not have given their all while forbidden to fully be themselves. At least those service members will be able to put down a special someone as the person to be notified.
Rogers was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and profiled in The New Yorker.
At the time of his death, the U.S. Army reportedly asked the Washington Post, MSNBC and other media not to discuss Rogers' sexuality out of "concern of the family." Family members were later incensed when the Washington Blade and mainstream media discussed Rogers' sexuality.