A US war veteran has been sacked for using the word ‘faggot’ while standing up for the rights of lesbian and gay soldiers.

Freddy Schmitt, 82, from New York, had worked for American Airlines for 54 years but was fired after he used the word in a training session.

While backing the right of gay and lesbian soldiers to serve openly, he said: “Back then a faggot coulda saved my life.”

According to the New York Post, the company refused to let Mr Schmitt return to his role as a ground-crew worker, despite his excellent employment record.

He is appealing the sacking but a decision could take months. Instead, he told the newspaper he wanted an “honorable discharge” from American Airlines.

“After 54 years, all I want is to go out in good faith,” he said.

Gay and lesbian servicemembers in the US are currently barred from being open about their sexuality.

The 1993 law is expected to be lifted this year, after military officials complete a series of steps to repeal it.