Air Force Veteran, 91, Finally Gets Honourable Discharge

Hubert Edward Spires has been looking over his shoulder for more than 50 years after being kicked out of the Air Force as a young gay sergeant in the 1940s.

But now, at 91, Mr Spires said he can finally be at peace with that part of his life.

He was awakened last week by a phone call to his Connecticut home and learned that the Air Force Board for the Correction of Military Records had agreed to change his status – from “undesirable” on his discharge records to “honourable”.

“It was a long haul,” Mr Spires told the New York Times. “I got the confirmation that I had been looking for.”

He is one of the hundreds of gay former military personnel who have been emboldened by the 2010 repeal of the United States military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy which prohibited gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

In 2011, the government allowed changes to veterans’ military records, some of which had been labelled “undesirable” or “other than honourable”.

The decision will allow Mr Spires, who recently recovered from pneumonia, to have a burial, when the time comes, with military honours.

“I have to quietly go back into my shell now,” he said. “Because I am 91 years old, and my health is not all it should be.

“I can’t take on jobs that require energy because I don’t have it any more, but I had it long enough to fight the G.D. Air Force and win,” he said.

At a Halloween party in 1947, Mr Spires dressed in a costume inspired by a sparkly laundry soap. Someone at the party informed his superiors that he was in drag and he was subsequently interrogated by military officials, threatened with a court-martial and sent to hearings and psychiatrists.

Mr Spires signed a statement saying he had engaged in “homosexual acts” to end the interrogation.

“I never did anything on the base in uniform,” he said. “I had a whole slew of very good friends who were gay and lived off base.

“We partied together; we had wonderful meals together and went to the opera together. We lived a very normal life.

“I did not dishonour the Air Force in any way by my actions,” he said.

Mr Spires has been given an honourable discharge dating to March 17, 1948.

“I had a terrible time,” he said. “But now I have been able to put so much of that behind me, and now that I have got my honourable discharge, I hope these negative thoughts will leave me permanently.”

“It has allowed me to not have to look over my shoulder all the time.”

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