Sunday, January 27, 2008

Army Maj. Alan G. Rogers

Remember Our Heroes

Army Maj. Alan G. Rogers, 40, of Hampton, Fla.

Maj. Rogers was assigned to the Military Transition Team, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.; died Jan. 27, 2008 of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated while he was conducting a dismounted patrol in Baghdad.

Gainesville Sun -- U.S. Army Maj. Alan G. Rogers should have been making plans to fly home later this month to serve as best man at his best friend's wedding. Instead, Rogers' body was flown home in a flag-draped casket Wednesday morning.

Maj. Alan G. Rogers, 40, had identified Hampton as his hometown when he enlisted in the Army in June 1990. According to information provided by the 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Rogers was a military intelligence officer working with a military transition team when he was killed.

Officials at the division's headquarters in Fort Riley, Kan., said transition teams are composed of small groups of American military personnel who have been specially "trained to advise, teach, mentor and coach their Iraqi or Afghan counterparts."

Rogers was serving his second overseas deployment when he became the 142nd person assigned to Fort Riley to be killed in the war.

Rogers, 40, died of wounds he suffered Jan. 27 in Iraq when an improvised explosive device detonated near him while he was on a foot patrol in Baghdad.

Rogers was serving his second tour of duty overseas. He was a military intelligence officer working with a military transition team when he died.

His body arrived at Gainesville Regional Airport just before noon Wednesday. Waiting on the tarmac were his cousin, Cathy Long, and her husband, Reginald Long, both of Ocala.

Also on hand were Rogers' best friend since college, Shay Hill of Jacksonville, and another close friend of both men, Army Sgt. Kelly O'Connor, who also had been asked to participate in Hill's March 1 wedding. Rogers was an only child, was divorced and had no children of his own. O'Connor said the Army was his life.

Despite his grief over Rogers' death, Hill could still smile about how the two met while in college. Hill was helping to pay his way through Santa Fe Community College by selling peanuts alongside U.S. 301. He would wave to passing motorists, hoping his friendliness would encourage them to stop and buy some peanuts.

"One day he (Rogers) stopped and introduced himself and asked why I was waving at him every time he went by," Hill said. "He didn't realize that I was waving at everybody."

Rogers and Hill became roommates for a portion of their college careers. Rogers joined the ROTC program at the University of Florida and then accepted a commission in the U.S. Army in 1990.

"I'll remember him as a true American hero, a very generous spirit," Hill said.

Cathy Long said her fondest memory of her younger cousin will be "his knack for bringing people together."

Long said that Rogers was adopted by his parents, George and Genny Rogers, when they were older. He was their only child and about the same age as Long's oldest son. The Rogers family moved to Florida from New York in 1977 to Hampton, northeast of Gainesville, where Alan attended Hampton Elementary School. He went on to attend middle and high school in Starke.

"We didn't really get close until his parents became ill," Long said. George died of a heart attack in 2000 and Genny of kidney-related problems two years later.

"He preached at his mother's funeral," Long said.

Rogers had joined Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church in Lincoln City as a youngster and was ordained as a pastor there when he was a young man. Ebenezer is where a funeral service will be held for Rogers at 11 a.m. Friday. Daniel Blackman, who coordinates Florida's Military Funeral Honors Program, said Rogers will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery later this month.

Those on hand to escort Rogers' casket from the airport to Starke included representatives of several agencies, including two former high school classmates: Starke Police Chief Gordon Smith and Lt. Barry Warren graduated from Bradford County High School with Rogers in 1985.

"When I was a senior, he was the commander of the Junior ROTC program," Warren said. "He was very knowledgeable about the concept and an excellent leader."

After graduation, Warren saw Rogers one more time - at The Oaks Mall in Gainesville.

"He told me he was doing what he loved, that he was in the Army and living his dream," Warren said. Others in the class of 1985 have phoned and e-mailed The Sun to express similar comments. Several recalled that Rogers was elected the most intellectual class member.

Former neighbor Joyce Mitchell said Rogers was called home frequently as his parents aged, usually because of medical emergencies involving his mother, whose kidneys were failing.

"A mother couldn't have asked for a better son. Anytime they called, he would get here if he could and he became like a parent to his father and mother," Mitchell said. She also said that after many trips home to care for his mother, Rogers' father died suddenly. His mother died within a few months.

Sgt. O'Connor said Rogers' intellectual abilities were also recognized by the Army. According to O'Connor, Rogers earned his first master's degree through the online Phoenix University, then was accepted into an elite program.

"He was one of only 25 Army officers accepted into the public policy master's degree program at Georgetown University," O'Connor said. "That is how he got his internship at the Pentagon for the deputy secretary of defense."

To honor Rogers' memory, Long, Hill and O'Connor said a Web site has been established to accept scholarship donations as a memorial in lieu of flowers.

In addition to a military honor guard at Roger's funeral, the Patriot Guard Riders will be in attendance. The volunteer organization attends military funerals nationwide, according to John "Daze" Vincent, the guard's Florida ride captain. Vincent said the group's only mission is to make certain that respect is shown for those who die while serving the country and sometimes that means shielding mourners from protesters.

"We had a funeral for a soldier last week in Orlando and there were protesters there," Vincent said. "We don't think that's something the families should have to deal with."

Army Maj. Alan G. Rogers was killed in action on 1/27/08.

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