Gay soldier’s legacy goes beyond sexual orientation
July 5, 2011 | 2:13 pm
(Updated: July 5, 2011 | 2:22 pm)
Andrew Wilfahrt, thought to be the first gay U.S. soldier killed in combat since last year’s December 22 repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, leaves a powerful legacy.
A politically-active pro-gay peace activist and LGBT rights activist from Minnesota, Wilfahrt came out to his parents when he was 16. Over a decade later, he joined the Army – at 29.
It seems that his parents were more shocked their son was joining the armed forces than they had been years before when they learned their son was gay – he enlisted when Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was still in force. In service, Wilfahrt was loved by his comrades and did not deny his sexual orientation to those who asked.
He was killed in Afghanistan in February, two days before he was scheduled for leave. His peers named a named a combat outpost bear Kandahar after him in the wake of his death.
Wilfahrt father, Jeff Wilfahrt, said that when he heard the news, he wanted to talk to others from Wilfahrt’s platoon, to make sure this wasn’t a “behind-the-shed killing of the gay guy.”
But Corporal Andrew Charles Wilfahrt, age 31 when he died, was one of many lesbian or gay U.S. soldiers who are known and well-respected by their colleagues in service despite the fact that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is still in effect. The policy will remain official until the President, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are able to certify a Pentagon report recommending new regulations dealing with same-sex attraction in the military.
The report – required by the legislation passed by Congress – is is still pending, meaning that openly-gay or bisexual soldiers still risk being kicked out of the military. That has not stopped many lesbian and gay soldiers, like Willfahrt, from telling their friends who they risk their lives with the truth about themselves.
“Mom, everyone knows. Nobody cares,” Willfahrt told his mother by phone last Thanksgiving, CNN reports.
Willfahrt got a perfect score on his military aptitude test, and leaves behind a noteworthy example of a man who was both an American Soldier and openly gay, during a time of transformation for the U.S. military and a tough period of waiting for many out and closeted U.S. soldiers. [CNN]