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Tue Jan 10, 2017, 10:13 AM

Gay Air Force Vet Honorably Discharged 68 Years Later

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Gay Air Force Vet Honorably Discharged 68 Years Later

By Daniela Altimari

dnaltimari@courant.com

January 9, 2017, 3:07 PM

A 91-year-old gay veteran from Connecticut has won his legal quest to upgrade his discharge status to honorable. ... H. Edward Spires of Norwalk was notified Friday morning that his application to the Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records was approved, eliminating the undesirable discharge designation that has marked his service record since he left the military in March of 1948. ... "My first thought was, 'it's about time," Spires said Monday. "I can lift my head again."

In November, Spires and a group of lawyers at the Yale Veterans Legal Services Clinic filed a federal lawsuit against the Air Force seeking to upgrade his discharge status. They cited the repeal of the military's controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy regarding gays and lesbians in the service.
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Spires joined the U.S. Army Air Force in 1946, at the age of 20. After completing basic training, he was assigned to be a chaplain's assistant at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. His duties included typing letters to distressed families, playing the organ at Catholic Mass and setting up the chapel for services, according to the complaint. Within 18 months, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant. ... Spires built a large group of civilian friends in San Antonio, many of whom were gay. But in those days, that was a risky proposition: In October of 1947, the commander called a meeting to "clean up the base of homosexuals," the lawsuit states. ... At an off-base Halloween party, Spires dressed up as the Oxydol "Sparkle," from the ad campaign for a popular brand of laundry detergent. Someone at the party mistook his costume for drag.
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Following his discharge from the Air Force, Spires seldom mentioned his service. He destroyed all evidence of his time in the military including his dog tags and transcripts of his court martial. And when pressed, he usually said he was discharged for medical reasons.

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