You all know I'm a veteran. I'm proud of my service. I consider myself a patriot (this in apparent direct contradiction to my belief that nationalism is a crime most heinous). But, I abhor war. I believe, sincerely, that there must be another way. I don't know what that way is. I'm not enough of a student of history to know if there were alternatives to war in WWII. With my limited (and state supplied) education on the subject, it appears to me that there was no alternative and I'm glad we fought and I'm glad we won (having said that I strongly disagree with the tactics of bombing Japanese cities with nuclear weapons).
So, when Memorial Day rolls around each year, I'm torn. I want to express my patriotism, but I also don't want to feed the death-for-glory culture we have created. I believe that dissent and protest are patriotic. Still, I recognize that my version of patriotism isn't the only version, and certainly not the only right version. The minister at the church I attend reminded us that Monday was Memorial Day, a day to remember those who died so we could be free. But, then, he went on to say that people are still dying today so that we can be free. I disagree with that. I have been opposed to this war since before its inception. Our young men and women are not dying today so that we can be free. They are dying to satisfy whatever appetites held by those in power today in this country. But, they are dying.
One such young man was Major Alan Rogers. I found his story at the SLDN blog. He was a patriot, who died doing the job they sent him to Iraq to do. He did more than merely follow orders. He shielded two other soldiers from the blast of an exploding IED, saving their lives. He was respected and honored. But, as one officer who served with him said -- "There was so much about Alan I never knew." Indeed. Alan was a gay officer and his country required him to lie in order to serve.
The story was written by a friend of mine who works at SLDN. She writes:
Why does it matter? Why should anyone need to know that Alan Rogers, an American patriot who died doing what he loved most – serving our country – also happened to be gay?
It matters because in our country the law says that gay people who want to serve in our nation’s Armed Forces have to conceal their identity for the privilege of doing so. And as a result, thousands of very good, fair, and decent straight service members have no idea how many of the phenomenal people they work with every day also happen to be gay. This invisibility creates an environment of complacency about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and what it requires of gay Americans in uniform. And change does not happen in an environment of complacency.
To honor him on this day, I give you this link and ask you to read his story. This is how I choose to honor Memorial Day. I hope you do, too.