midst of all the major news affecting the
masses of humanity here and around the world, a
local tragedy went almost unnoticed in a
small town in Minnesota. Another American
soldier was killed in combat in Afghanistan and
his family and friends mourned at home.
His mother, Lori Wilfahrt, was interviewed by
Minnesota Public Radio,
his father, Jeff Wilfahrt, by
Despite their unspeakable grief, both spoke up
to say that their soldier son was gay.
They didn't have to do that at all; it could
have remained something that family and friends
sighed about privately along with their hugs and
tears. They did that, I believe, in order
to give their son's sacrifice some greater
meaning, to give their mourning a purpose in
addition their personal tragedy. On
February 27th, 2011, Corporal Andrew Wilfahrt
thus became the second "known" American gay
service member to be killed in action in the
current Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
The first was Major Alan Rogers age 40, killed
in combat by an IED, aboard a Humvee
in Iraq on January 27th, 2008. No doubt
there are more gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender, men and
women who made the ultimate sacrifice while
serving in silence about who they really were.
Rogers had been active in
American Veterans For
the LGBT veterans organization, and his friends knew
that he would have wanted his sacrifice in the
fight for Iraqi freedom to hold meaning in the
fight for freedom here at home as well.
Articles about Alan Rogers include those in
Gay Military Signal
The Washington Post,
Rogers, on his second tour in Iraq, had been
training Iraqi troops when he was killed. Overcoming an impoverished childhood, he had
earned a masters degree in policy management and
was also an ordained minister.
As Roger's friend Tony Smith wrote shortly after his
funeral, "a part of his life, his sexual
orientation, was still hidden, and for many of
his gay friends, we didn’t find out about his
death until a month later. If he had a partner,
he would have never received a call or visit
from a casualty officer. Even in death our
friend Alan’s life was compartmentalized."
"What is most disheartening to me as a gay
veteran," Smith wrote, "is that on the day before my friend Alan
Rogers was killed in combat -if the Army found
out he was gay then suddenly he wouldn’t be
qualified to continue serving the country he
loved. But the next day he was a hero for giving
his life for his country. But he couldn’t, even
in death, be identified as a gay hero."
friend, Sharon Alexander, wrote that Rogers
shielded two others
from the blast that killed him, who likely would
have been killed were it not for Alan’s bravery.
Andrew Charles Wilfahrt's service to his nation was an
uncommon act of selfless sacrifice.
He was from a
yet his father told me that his grandfather,
Andrew's great grandfather Charles, had served
heroically in World War I as a member of 3rd
Battalion, 308th Liberty Division (of NY) which
was involved in the rescue of survivors of 'The
Lost Battalion' during the Meusse-Argonne
Offensive. His father told me that
soldiers don't die for patriotism, political
agendas, or other reasons, "they die for each
other." Andrew shielded another soldier, a
family man, who survived. In an article in
this issue of Gay Military Signal, Andrew's
mother tells the rest of his story, from her
According to his parents,
joined because, as a
single gay man, he
could do his part by
perhaps taking the
place of a man with
a wife and
children and spare
them the loss should
he perish in battle.
In fact, he did just
He was killed while on a
foot patrol outside Kandahar. "I'm so
proud of his service," his father told CNN.
The catastrophe in Japan and the
conflicts in the Middle East and Africa affect
all of humanity.
But, the simple Midwestern grace and dignity of
Corporal Andrew Wilfahrt's parents in sharing
their grief with us gives hope that our humanity