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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 25, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 12
Gay soldier killed in Afghanistan
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Gay soldier killed in Afghanistan

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Responsible journalists around the world will tell you that there is no place for glorifying death in print. Is one loss of life more important than another? The simple answer is no.

But every now and then, a story comes along where a loss of life helps to point out a fact. On these rare occasions, the story must be told. The death of Army Corporal Andrew Wilfahrt is that story.

On February 27, in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan, Cpl. Andrew Wilfahrt, 31, was killed during an attack on his unit by insurgents with an IED. He was a proud member of the 3rd Platoon 552nd MP Battalion U.S. Army, serving on patrol at the time of his death. Upon hearing the news of the brave young man's death, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton (Wilfahrt was from Rosemount) ordered that all flags be lowered to half-staff in honor of the state's fallen son.

So, nearly 10 years into the Afghanistan war campaign, why does Wilfahrt's death stand out?

He was an out and proud Gay man. Up until he joined the service two years ago, he wrestled with the ethical question of going back into the closest to serve his nation. Two years ago, DADT was alive and well. The consequences for being outed as a Gay man were real, and Wilfahrts knew it. Like many before him (and many currently), he served to protect the Constitution, the nation that holds him as a second-class citizen, and the military that was ready to kick him out.

Poignantly, Wilfahrt may be the first Gay soldier killed since the legislative removal of the DADT ban.

In his obituary, his parents described him as 'compassionate, smart, and witty - an admirer, composer, and player of music who believed deeply in art and humanity.'

His father, Jeff Wilfahrt, said, 'He didn't have a child and a wife. In a way, he went over [to war] so that somebody with a young family wouldn't die.'

The grieving father added, 'He was a Gay soldier.'

One of his comrades posted on his Facebook wall, 'He joined the fight so that guys like me didn't have to. He is my hero, my friend, and I miss him. Sleep well, buddy. You earned it.'

Nobody cared that Wilfahrt was Gay, said his mother, Lori.

'He knew he would have to go back into the closet,' she explained, '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 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.'

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