Thursday, January 05, 2017

Give 91-Year-Old Gay Veteran His Honorable Discharge: Editorial

Written by Editorial | Hartford Courant

The Air Force did an injustice to H. Edward Spires 68 years ago when it interrogated him and booted him out with an "undesirable" discharge only because he is gay. This wrong must be righted now, before it's too late.

Mr. Spires is 91 and frail. Because of his discharge, he is denied all the benefits due veterans, including a military funeral with honors.

Mr. Spires was a chaplain's assistant for two years when he was harshly questioned and ousted in 1948. He is one of an estimated 100,000 members of the military who have been discharged since World War II for being gay. The military has thankfully evolved since those purges. Its 1942 ban of gays was lifted in 2011 by Congress.

But changing the policy didn't undo the damage. Many gay veterans remain branded with the shame of less-than-honorable discharges solely because of their sexuality. Some have succeeded in getting an upgrade. But the painful process can take time and records may no longer exist, as in Mr. Spires' case. He destroyed his out of understandable mortification, and the Air Force may have lost its records in a fire.

Mr. Spires did go on after his discharge to build "a life and a career that have brought joy to those around him," his husband, David Rosenberg, said this past week. He's worked in community theater, and the Norwalk couple have been together nearly six decades. But the stain of a less-than-honorable discharge made him feel ashamed all these years.

He's suffered this humiliation too long. The Air Force needs to give him an honorable discharge now.


Group of Lawyers at the Yale Veterans Legal Services Clinic are Seeking to Right a 68-year-old Wrong:
They filed a federal lawsuit against the Air Force seeking to upgrade H. Edward Spires' discharge status to honorable, a change that would allow him to have a funeral with military honors.

"The idea that this man of faith who served dutifully as a chaplain's assistant in the armed forces, who built a life and a career that has brought joy to those around him, would leave this earth considered undesirable in the eyes of his country, it's unthinkable," Spires' husband, David Rosenberg, said during a briefing on the case at Yale Law School.

The couple lives in Norwalk; they have been together for nearly six decades, marrying in 2009.