Michael Hamar

No One Cared He Was Gay Except the Pentagon: A Soldier's Memoriam

Filed By Michael Hamar | March 06, 2011 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Afghanistan, Don't Ask Don't Tell, freedom of religion, gay heroes, gays in the military, religious based prejudice

In light of the thinly veiled anti-gay bullshit taking place at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command near Charleston, South Carolina, a post done by my friend Lyndon Evans - one of the first LGBT bloggers I got to know when I started my personal blog nearly four years ago - is all the more poignant. It honors a gay soldier killed in Afghanistan.

It also shows the toxic evil of allowing personal religious based bigotry to hold sway in the U. S. military such as is apparently the case of Capt. Thomas W. Bailey pictured in my post. Lyndon's post looks at the sacrifice made by Cpl. Andrew Wilfahrt age 31 (pictured at right).

Here is Lyndon's post from Focus on the Rainbow in its entirety (the bold faced emphasis is mine):


There were days I hated being a reporter or news/sportscaster as that was when I had to report on tragedy or death. All these many years later I have come full circle because today I hate my vocation as a journalist blogger.

I could have ignored this story, wrote something more palatable to ones senses or not posted at all today. But that would have been the easy way and going against the mission of this blog to focus on one person, issue or event in the Rainbow a day at a time.

Back then I would report such stories often with a damp eye. Today will be no different as I write this except you won't hear my voice crack as I once spoke into a microphone.

It was a week ago today in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan that Cpl. Andrew Wilfahrt age 31 was killed during an attack on his unit by insurgents with an IED. Wilfahrt was from Rosemount, Minnesota and this past Friday Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton ordered that yesterday all flags be lowered to half-staff to honor the state's fallen son. A celebration of Cpl. Wilfahrt's life was celebrated Friday at the Ft. Snelling Officers' Club. He was a proud member of the 3rd platoon 552nd MP Battalion U.S. Army serving on patrol at the time of his death. But there is more to this story.

Up until the time some two years ago when Wilfahrt decided to enlist he was an out and proud gay man. But with finding himself in the quandary of wanting to serve his Country and the policy of Don't Ask Don't Tell, he decided for the sake of pursuing his wish to join the Army he would go back into the closet so he could protect the Constitution and all of us the American citizens. That is quite an irony. Protect the Constitution and a Nation which at best holds him as second class person and a military ready to kick him out.

In a radio inteview the other day his mother Lori Wilfahrt spoke to reporter Cathy Wurzer of Minnesota Public Radio (you can hear the interview and read it here)and when Wurzer asked her if she was concerned about her son being gay and in the military she replied, It did a lot. I think it concerned him as well. He spent a lot of time thinking about it and he came to terms with it. He knew he would have to go back in the closet, that he would have to keep that to himself. And he did, for at least part of his stay in the Army. But when I talked to him (or when he wrote maybe) when he was in Afghanistan, he said nobody cares. He said, 'Everybody knows, nobody cares.' He said, 'Even the really conservative, religious types, they didn't care either.'

Nobody cared that Cpl. Andrew Wilfahrt was gay. Not the enemy, not his fellow soliders, only the Pentagon. Rest In Peace Corporal.

It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived. - General George S. Patton.


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i hate to say this, and it's a bit off-topic, but i get the impression that if this war ended it would be "bad for business" down at the pentagon, and i truly believe they're trying to keep it going in order to keep the money flowing and the "action" from coming to an end.

i don't want any soldiers--or contractors, for that matter--getting killed over this anymore, and the main reason i'm saying that is because at this point i don't think our military or our political leadership, or the leadership of the other nato countries, know exactly what they're seeking to accomplish over there...and if you don't have a real plan, there's certainly no reason to be just sort of endlessly killing people.

The DoD is facing budget cuts and troop reductions no matter what. The good years after 9/11 are over and everyone there knows it.

The war isn't really helping them entirely. It also degrades and depleted equipment. And it funnels money into projects that not everyone is happy with. Not everyone wants the military to turn into a force that is only designed to fight low intensity conflicts.

Don,

I hate to say it, but living in an area with a huge military population, I suspect your cynicism about wanting to keep the war going without end is 100% on target. Not among the rank and file members of the military mind you, but amongst the commanders and the high military brass. I suspect they have never seen a "bad war" and would have the Afghanistan conflict go on for an open ended period. No matter what happens, they will claim to only need more time and more men to win the unwinable situation.

Any student of history knows that NO ONE has ever won in Afghanistan - not the British, not the Soviets, and now not the USA. Alexander the Great only kept nominal control of the region by marrying Roxanne who was from the high nobility of the region.

Wow two comments and not one word about the life this young man lost.Did either of you listen to the mothers interview? She praised the Army for the care and respect they've shown the family in preparing them for what to expect.She lost her son instead of pointing her finger and complaining about the war she thanked them.I wish to extend my condolences to the family and thank them for the life that they lost.A life that not only they lost but we as a community and a nation did.Incase you all didn't notice Corporal Wilfarht wasn't worried about your approval about what he was doing he was living his life. He was building friendships with those he served and helping to build the image that gay men are good and capable people.An image those that served with him will carry through life.An image that will benefit you.As a veteran I can assure you that he looking down with pride knowing that you are free to be insentive and disrespectful.May he rest in piece and his funeral be from protest.

A whole comment about the war and not a single word for the hundreds of thousands Afghanis who have been killed in this senseless war.

And, no, they didn't die to protect our freedom of speech, and I don't really know where you're getting that ("he looking down with pride knowing that you are free to be insentive and disrespectful"). There was no plan for Afghanistan to take over the US and remove the First Amendment.

At least get your casualty figures straight. Afghanistan isn't Iraq with its all out civil war. The lower population density and low urbanization has also kept the death toll lower.
The yearly civilian deaths were often lower than the monthly rate in Iraq at the height of the insurgency.

The total figure for civilian deaths is a couple tens of thousands. Too high, but claiming that hundreds of thousands died is a lie.

there is no way that anything i'm saying here should be taken as disrespect to anybody...except maybe certain elements of our political leadership.

i know what it is to be in the military, and i know what it is to be the kid in the doorway when your dad unexpectedly comes home from the war--and now that i have a godson in the army, i know what it's like to see him go, and come back, and now, he's at fort hood, gettin' ready to go again.

and knowing all that, i also know that this captain's parents are going to find out that they aren't as prepared as they may wish, because this is a devastating reality that will take some time to set in.

and i know something else: there is no good reason for dead bodies to be coming home from that war.

look, afghanistan's pashtuns don't trust us because they see us as propping up the incredibly corrupt karzai government (which we are), which they really don't trust.

we're fighting the group they do trust, the taliban, and our punjabi allies in what is now pakistan have spent who knows how long oppressing the pashtuns that live on their side of the durand line.

so, basically, we "close enough" won the war in the north and the west long ago, and the odds are that we won't win the war in places like helmand for another decade or more...if, at some point, we can actually figure out what "victory" is.

what are we trying to do in afghanistan?

ae we trying to create some sort of western-style democracy?

maybe we should just settle for creating civil rights for women and disarming the place?

are we trying to make the taliban "unenticing" to the afghan population?

are we going to leave when afghanistan's government can defend itself against external threats?

no one knows, or at least no one will indicate publicly where this is going, and every one of those choices is a different kind of war.

until and unless some of this is made clear, every dead trooper is a trooper at risk of dying in vain, and i will not stand idly by while that happens.

this man, this soldier...this person whose life touched the lives of many others...could have come home and raised a family, or taught school, or been a cop...or who knows what?

but now he's dead, and i truly do not understand why, and to me that means we have no business sending this soldier, or any other, into combat.

all that said, there is a military "command community" that does assign status in the pentagon to how big your stream of funding is, and it's played out over the decades in things like funding to close a fake "missile gap" in the '60s, reagan's decision to try to fund a 600-ship navy, the eternal battle between the air force's nuclear capabilities and the navy's ballistic missile subamrine fleet and desire for 13 "carrier battle groups", and the army's chieftan program.

and today, the question of whether that funding will keep flowing is huge, and that's why you have guys like mccrystal and petraeus looking for ways to "work around" obama's seeming desire to end this thing.

to acknowledge that reality is not being disrespectful today any more than it was when eisenhower warned us about the "military/industrial complex" back in the 1950s--in fact, what i'm talking about here, today, is just the extension of what he was talking about way back then.

Also Michael since you wrote the story I would assume you at least listened to the mother. Your words "It also shows the toxic evil of allowing personal religious based bigotry to hold sway in the U. S. military such as is apparently the case of Capt. Thomas W. Bailey pictured in my post." If you listened to his mother she stated that he didn't even have any problems with the most conservative religious soldiers in his unit and that everyone knew he was gay.In Corporal Wilfarhts case there was no toxic evil from religion only acceptance and tolerance. That is a personal triumph that's reflects highly on his character. It also reflects positively on his unit, the Army and those conservative christians. Conservative christians may deserve a lot of critism but it would seem the ones that were around him deserve a little respect and maybe some compassion for having to deal with the loss of a comrade.

Unless, of course, you count the draconian DADT law itself, since it was pushed by the religious right. They cared - and no matter what his troop thought of him, they'd have pitched him out on his ear if they'd found out or a "comrade" got pissed off and turned him in.