A Meaningful Life
Our son, Corporal Andrew Wilfahrt,
age 31, was killed in action February 27 while on foot
patrol outside of Kandahar, Afghanistan. It is painful
to think that he will never come home again. However, we
remember him well and are reminded daily of what a truly
remarkable son and brother he was. The love and support
from family, friends, the Army family and even complete
strangers, softens the blow a little.
We are not a church-going family
but that didn’t mean that our parenting didn’t include
discussions around morals, ethics or religions. And we
had a few simple rules. Be responsible. Do your part.
Laugh and have fun. Be nice. Share.
We are not a military family.
Older relatives served a long time ago, but we didn’t
know much about military life or culture. There was
stunned silence at the dinner table when Andrew
announced that he was joining the Army. What was he
thinking? He was messy and not always punctual. He was a
peace-loving person, he challenged authority on an
intellectual level, he respected life and he was gay.
We are a lucky family to have had
Andrew. He was a beautiful
child: sweet, curious and kind. He had a silly sense of
humor and as he grew up he loved all things ridiculous
and absurd. Numbers, palindromes and patterns
were a constant source of entertainment for him. But his
passion was classical music, especially Bach. He
composed and played the piano at a young age and his
love of music continued into adulthood. He carried a
notebook with him so he could write down ideas for new
compositions. He disliked pop culture and ignored it
entirely. He encouraged everyone he knew to take time to
be creative, to write, paint, build, or to just dream.
Andrew struggled as a teenager and
young adult. He wasn’t a popular kid in high school.
We loved and accepted him but
couldn’t always help him, except to give him a safe
place to land when he needed it. Over time, Andrew was
fortunate enough to like who he was and could be his
sweet, curious, kind and gay self, comfortably. He was a
strong individual and sure of himself when he enlisted.
People join the military for all
kinds of reasons I suppose: family precedence, lack of
job opportunities, the GI bill, patriotism. After years
of working at low-paying, dead-end jobs, Andrew was
looking to do something else. He wanted a life of
meaning and purpose. He wanted to participate. As he
explored the possibility of enlisting, he came to terms
with taking orders, carrying a gun, witnessing violence
and closeting himself to comply with Don’t Ask Don’t
Tell, a policy put in place before he was old enough to
On a cold January night, we dropped
Andrew off at the local army enlistment center. We
hugged him, wished him luck, said goodbye. During that
first year in the army, he worked hard, strengthening
his body and mind. He proved to himself and others that
he would protect and defend his fellow soldiers. He
became a friend and confidant to many, providing comic
relief during times of boredom or tension. Eventually,
he shared that he was gay and soon everyone knew. And no
one cared. People liked him and knew they could depend
on him. In Andrew’s military experience it was loyalty
and friendship that mattered; not sexual preference.
While leaders in the government and
military argue over the repeal of DADT and its details,
our soldiers, gay or straight, follow the orders given
to them by those same leaders. Yet, on the ground, what
matters is if the man or woman next to them will do
their part, cover and protect them, be a friend.
Sexuality is inconsequential.
Andrew cared about people; all
kinds of people, those on the fringes, the ignored,
people in pain. He taught us a lot about love and
acceptance, being patient with people and that change
comes slowly. Andrew didn’t ever want us to worry or be
sad. I wonder what he’d be thinking about us now.
Andrew had a short but meaningful
life. He proved to be a responsible and dependable
soldier and friend. He didn’t join the army to find a
date. He served so someone else didn’t have to. He was a
nice guy. He did his part.
© 2011 Gay Military Signal