91-year-old gay veteran finally granted honourable discharge, 70 years on from homophobic dismissal
A 91-year-old veteran will finally receive an honourable discharge, more than 70 years he was booted out of the Air Force in a homophobic witch hunt.
Hubert Edward Spires had signed up to the Air Force aged 20, serving from 1946 to 1948 and earning the rank of sergeant.
However he was dismissed for “undesirable habits and traits of character” as part of a homophobic witch hunt, after his superior officers took exception to a sparkly Halloween outfit and interrogated him about his sexuality.
Military veterans were able to apply to have their discharges overturned following the repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy in 2010, however Mr Spires was told he was not able to get his ‘undesirable’ status changed because records of his discharge had been lost in a fire.
In November Mr Spires launched a lawsuit aimed at getting the Air Force to overturn his dishonourable discharge, and this week a settlement was reached as the Air Force changed his discharge to honourable.
The Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records confirmed that the request for an honourable discharge has now been approved by the Air Force Review Boards Agency.
Spires, who is in poor health, will be afforded a military burial thanks to his new discharge status.
The Connecticut resident told the Hartford Courant: “My first thought was, ‘It’s about time’ I can lift my head again.
“I’m still recovering from pneumonia but every day seems a little brighter.
“This is one thing less on my mind…I can smile again.”
However, the correction does not make up for a lifetime of injustice. Due to his discharge, Spires destroyed all his mementos from the time in the military, and kept it secret even from his own family.
He lamented: “I could never mention my military service to my family.”
Democraic Senator Richard Blumenthal, who has battled on Spires’ behalf, said: “I’m very gratified for Ed Spires and his spouse for this decision corrects an incredible injustice.
“I’m also hopeful and excited for others who were similarly unjustly discharged with less than honorable status simply because of their sexual orientation.
“I’ll continue to fight for them.”