Sunday, 11 November 2012

Remembering the Fallen

For Remembrance Sunday I’d like to highlight a handful of lgbt service personnel who have been killed on active duty. Whether we approve of the motives behind specific conflicts or not we should not ignore the sacrifice made by service men and women.

Here is a list of lgbt members of armed forces from wars and conflicts throughout history who have died on active service. Some are well-known, others are not. We’ll begin with two examples from the ancient world before moving onto the present era.

DIOCLES OF ATHENS (4th century BC)
Exiled from his native Athens, this soldier fought with the army of Megara. During one battle he died while protecting his young male lover from attack. He was declared a hero by his adopted city, and for many centuries afterwards his sacrifice was celebrated at his tomb with a festival called Diocleia which featured games and sporting contests.

An army made up exclusively of 150 pairs of male couples, in the belief that men would fight more bravely with a lover by his side. They were an elite force who were undefeated in battle, even against the Spartans, until 338 BC when they were annihilated by King Philip II of Macedonia at the Battle of Chaeronea.

2nd Lt. GILBERT OWEN, MC (1893-1918)
The leading poet of World War I. Commissioned into the Manchester Regiment he suffered from shell shock (post traumatic stress disorder) during service in the French trenches. Returning to the front after treatment he was shot in the head just a week before Armistice Day. His poetry depicts the horrors of trench warfare. Owen was awarded the Military Cross posthumously.

Wing Cdr. IAN GLEED, DSO, DFC (1916-1943)
Having experienced his first flight in an aircraft at school Ian earned a pilot’s licence and joined the RAF in 1936. Surviving the Battle of Britain, earning the Distinguished Service Order and Distinguished Flying Cross, he was posted to Fighter Command in 1942. He was reported missing in Egypt after a fighter night sweep. His aircraft and remains were found years later, apparently having been shot down by enemy fire. The French awarded him a posthumous Croix de Guerre.

Maj. ALAN ROGERS (1967-2008)
A Baptist preacher from the age of 20. Commissioned into the US army in 1995. Even though Alan was a member of the American Veterans For Equal Rights, wrote a thesis on the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and was photographed with his partner at a gay wedding he also officiated at, his sexuality came as a surprise to many after his death, even his family. He was killed by an improvised explosive device in Iraq and was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.

Corp. ANDREW WILFAHRT (1980-2011)
Openly gay Andrew was a maths whizzkid with a fascination for puzzles. He joined the US army, according to his mother, in order to find a life of meaning. This meant going “back into the closet” to enter the army, though he later told his mother “everyone knows, nobody cares”. Andrew was posted to Afghanistan in 2009 and killed by an improvised explosive device. Flags in Minnesota, his home state, were flown at half mast on the orders of the state governor.

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