The Arlington Ceremony

Rogers' funeral at Arlington National Cemetery.
© Washington Post

The next morning, St. George went out to Arlington National Cemetery to report on the Rogers funeral. It was a traditional military ceremony, with taps and a three-volley salute over his flag-draped coffin. Rogers’ Defense Department colleagues spoke movingly about the deceased. He was, they said, the best and the brightest among them. St. George estimated that at least 150 people, both military and civilian, gathered to bury Alan Rogers.

She also couldn’t help noticing that no one spoke about Rogers’ sexuality. “I went into the story being told that he was an openly gay service member,” St. George recalls. “And I guess you wouldn’t really expect it to be discussed at his service, but it wasn’t discussed, and there wasn’t anyone who was in the military who talked to me about that at the service.” St. George talked to as many people as she could, but felt it inappropriate to pry into Rogers’ sexual orientation at his funeral, especially since no one seemed to be volunteering the information. “It’s a very somber occasion and people are grieving,” St. George says.

And the real issue at that moment is mourning the loss of a man people cared about. So exploring his sexual orientation was not something that was possible, or easy, or appropriate to do at that moment in time.

Instead, St. George recorded the eulogies delivered by Rogers’ friends and colleagues and gathered contact information. One of the people she met was Mark Nadel. When Rogers was pursuing a master’s degree at Georgetown University four years prior to his death, Nadel had been his thesis adviser. Remembering Rogers as a student, Nadel told St. George: “[I thought] this is a guy I’m going to hear from in 10 years, and he’s going to be a general.” [1]

Who else is there? That afternoon, St. George returned to the Post ’s downtown offices. She was frustrated because, despite the many friends and colleagues she had seen at the funeral, she had come no closer to finding someone who could definitively speak for Rogers. She approached Davis, her editor, to say that she did not have enough reporting for the story to run the next day. There was, however, going to be a memorial held at a local bed & breakfast where Rogers’ friends had held a redeployment party for him before his final tour in Iraq. Davis and St. George decided that St. George should attend the gathering to do some more reporting. They would hold the piece until Sunday.

[1] Donna St. George, “Army Officer Remembered As Hero: Friends, Fellow Soldiers Mourn Loss of ‘Extraordinary' Man,” Washington Post , March 22, 2008, p.B03.