Major Alan Rogers's life was as complex as it was inspiring - he was adopted at 5 years old, an intelligence officer in the Army, an ordained Baptist minister, African American, and gay.
As one of only 25 officers sent to Georgetown University in 2004 to earn a master's degree in public policy, Maj. Rogers analyzed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" for his thesis. He concluded that repeal "would yield higher readiness rates, save potential millions of dollars in investigations and discharge processing of gays and improve our overall national security posture."
He also had to protect his 20 years of service by making personal sacrifices, including sacrificing the ability to settle down with a partner while he was still enlisted. This was one of Alan's goals when he retired, which he planned to do after returning from Iraq.
He never had the chance.
Maj. Alan Greg Rogers was killed by an improvised explosive devise during his second tour of duty in Iraq on Jan. 27, 2008.
Maj. Rogers not only refused to forsake any part of himself because of anti-gay discrimination, he gave his life for his country despite that discrimination.
After his burial in Arlington National Cemetery, The Washington Post published a story about Alan's life, lauding him as a hero, the recipient of two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart. What wasn't part of the story? The fact that he was openly gay and worked to overturn "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
Criticized for excluding such a significant part of Alan's life, the Post admitted that "there was enough evidence - particularly of Rogers's feelings about 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' - to warrant. . . . adding that dimension to the story of his life. The story would have been richer for it."
In August 2008, that complete story was told by New Yorker magazine, in "A Soldier's Legacy: Don't Ask, Don't Tell, but Alan Rogers was a hero to everyone who knew him." In the article, Alan's friend Shay Hill shared that Alan believed "you don't change the system by alienating those who are against you. You change the system by trying to convince those who are against you."
His life and ultimate sacrifice exemplifies why we owe gay and lesbian servicemembers far more than a bullsh-t apology for years of "Don't Ask Don't Tell."