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.