Press accused of ignoring death of lesbian soldier

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The questionable and untimely death of Specialist Ciara Durkin, a service member with the Massachusetts Army National Guard who was found dead from a gunshot wound to the head on September 27th, has not gone unnoticed.

Late last week Democratic Senators Edward Kennedy and John Kerry, along with Congressman William Delahunt and the Servicemembers Legal Defence Network (SLDN), made headlines by calling on Pentagon officials to conduct a full and thorough investigation into the incident that occurred while Durkin was serving in Afghanistan.

What many of the articles that have since appeared in the mainstream press have failed to highlight, unfortunately, is that Durkin was gay.

Not only that, but according to SLDN Durkin was the first openly gay member of the U.S. military to be killed in Afghanistan or Iraq.

An article in the Boston Herald early last week was about the only one that mentioned Durkin’s sexual orientation, and even included comments about it from family members, alongside other information about her untimely death.

“Ciara was a lesbian, and that’s bound to come out,” Durkin’s sister, Fiona Canavan, told the newspaper.

“It is possible that someone over there found that out, and, you know, maybe they were very homophobic.”

Prior to her death, Durkin, who was scheduled to return to the U.S. in January, and planned to marry her partner in her home state of Massachusetts, told family members that she had “seen things that she didn’t like and she had raised concerns that had annoyed some people.”

She told family members to demand an official investigation should something happen to her, the Boston Herald reported.

Other articles on the incident, including one published late last week by CBS News and the Associated Press, one published by Fox News and another that appeared in The Patriot Ledger, have either barely mentioned Durkin’s sexual orientation or glossed over it completely.

The CBS/AP article, for instance, included a single sentence about the topic: “The family is also wondering whether Durkin’s sexual orientation – she was gay – played a role in her death.”

The reports from Fox News and The Patriot Ledger didn’t mention it at all.

Last week, in a letter to Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, Senator Kerry implored that the Department of Defence “deploy your staff on this matter immediately, so that the answers and circumstances around Specialist Durkin’s death are uncovered, expeditiously and thoroughly,” according to an SLDN press release.

Congressman Delahunt told reporters that his staff met yesterday with Army officials and Senator Kennedy’s office has contacted Army Secretary Pete Geren to express concern about the murder, the release added.

SLDN said it will weigh in with Secretary Gates and join those calls for an investigation.

“Specialist Durkin was a first-class soldier and her family deserves first-class treatment from military leaders,” Aubrey Sarvis, SLDN’s executive director, said in a release.

“We will not rest until the facts surrounding her death are known and her family is satisfied that they have received all relevant information about the murder.”

Durkin was buried on Saturday in her hometown of Quincy, Massachusetts.

Bryan Ochalla © 2007; All Rights Reserved.