NORWALK -- The Air Force has upgraded the discharge of a veteran, due to the fact that he was gay, to honorable, clearing the way for him to be have a military funeral when he dies.
Nearly seven decades ago, Hubert Edward Spires was discharged from the Air Force with an "undesirable" designation because he was gay. In November, he filed suit to change the status to honorable. Last Friday, the Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records ruled in Stiles favor.
"It's about time," Spires said. "I served my time, I did my job, there was nothing dishonorable about my service and I deserve credit for that service."
Spires started submitting paperwork in September 2014. Problems with the paperwork and the fact the records had been destroyed in a fire delayed resolution of the case. Spires has been in poor health.
“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,” U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said.
In 1948 Spires was discharged from the Air Force after about two years of service, and despite what he says was faithful service to this country, he was deemed "undesirable" based on who he was. He had worked as a chaplain's assistant at Lackland Air Force Base during his service.
After attending a Halloween party in 1948, those who saw him at the party reported that he was gay, leading to days of interrogation and threats of jail time, a press release from those filing the suit said. Spires refused to cooperate, and was then discharged.
Spires said he never told his family the reason why he was discharged, out of fear.
"It was a different world then," he said. "No one in my family ever knew. It was a strain, a constant strain on me."
The veteran crediting his husband, David Rosenberg, and his legal team at the Yale Veterans Legal Services Clinic, for helping him win this fight.
"I never thought the day would come," Spires said. "I felt a great relief to have this burden off of me."
Thousands of gay and lesbian service personnel were dishonorably discharged for their sexual orientation after World War II and up to the early 1990s.
When "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was repealed in 2010, veterans who were discharged under less then honorable circumstances for being gay or lesbian, could apply to have the status changed.