Steve Ralls

Lesbian Service Member Killed in Afghanistan

Filed By Steve Ralls | October 03, 2007 9:21 AM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: Ciara Dunkin, Don't Ask Don't Tell, military, National Guard, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, steve ralls

For the first time, there is a report of an openly gay service member killed while on duty in the war zone in Afghanistan. Massachusetts National Guard Spc. Ciara Durkin, 30, was found with a single gunshot wound to her head behind a building at Bagram Airbase on Sept. 27, according to this morning's Boston Herald.

With at least 65,000 lesbian and gay personnel on duty in the armed forces today, there have no doubt been other LGBT casualties of the war on terror, but the long shadow cast by "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" has made it difficult to identify all of the sacrifices made by gay troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Durkin's family, however, is speaking out and letting the world know that Ciara - a proud, patriotic American who bravely answered the call to serve her country - also happened to be gay.

There is no evidence to suggest that Durkin was killed because of her sexual orientation. Instead, her family reports, they believe she may have been targeted for uncovering something inside the war zone that made others less than happy.

Durkin was "mysteriously slain by a bullet to the head on a secure Afghanistan airbase," the Herald reports, and "feared something might happen to her after discovering 'something she didn’t like,' her devastated family revealed."

“The last time she was home she said she had seen things that she didn’t like and she had raised concerns that had annoyed some people,” said Durkin’s sister Fiona Canavan. “She said, and I thought she was joking, that if anything happened to her we had to investigate.”

The military has simply said the death is under investigation. Her funeral is Saturday in her hometown of Quincy, Mass.

By all accounts, Ciara was proud to be an open lesbian serving her country. She was well-known within the Boston community and was an active member in LGBT causes.

Ciara's story is a painful reminder that LGBT Americans are also paying a heavy price in the war zone. And, as her story shows others about the proud service of our community, it could have a powerful impact in the campaign to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Brave men and women like Ciara deserve better than this law. They have given too much to be left - even more day - serving in the shadows of discrimination. They must not be denied the freedom they fight so valiantly to defend.


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Ciara's story is a painful reminder that LGBT Americans are also paying a heavy price in the war zone. And, as her story shows others about the proud service of our community, it could have a powerful impact in the campaign to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Steve, are you serious? Only SLDN could turn a report about a woman brutally executed on a US military base into an argument that more people should be allowed to serve openly in the army.

I think Ciara’s story is actually a painful reminder of the violence against women – whether they be American soldiers or Iraqi civilians – that is an integral part of war, imperialism, and the US military.

I think Ciara’s story is actually a painful reminder of the violence against women – whether they be American soldiers or Iraqi civilians – that is an integral part of war, imperialism, and the US military.

This is true, Nick. But at the same time, we shouldn't be accepting of violence against gays and lesbians in the military. Folks can choose whether or not to enter the military - it's not forced on them. And while I'm not a military supporter either, I do believe that LGBT personnel have the same rights to serve openly as anyone else.

Steve Ralls Steve Ralls | October 3, 2007 10:54 AM

In fact, Nick, Ciara herself was a passionate advocate for allowing LGBT Americans to serve openly. Bil is right: Military service is a choice, and LGBT Americans who want to serve in the armed forces should be allowed to do so openly, and should be able to do so without fear.

If you advocate taking away the opportunity for gay Americans to serve in the armed forces, you do, in fact, perpetuate discrimination, by saying that our nation's largest employer should not accept gay Americans.

I wonder if Phelps and Co. will be out for this one. It's right up his alley. I wish I lived closer to MA so that I could go and thank this family for the sacrafice of their daughter.