91-year-old gay veteran sues Air Force to have military honors at his funeral

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Edward Spires, left, in 1946.
From Stripes.com
Edward Spires, left, in 1946.

91-year-old gay veteran sues Air Force to have military honors at his funeral

by: Nikki Wentling | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: November 19, 2016

 WASHINGTON – An ailing 91-year-old veteran who was kicked out of the Air Force in 1948 for being gay filed a lawsuit Friday against service Secretary Deborah Lee James, in part so he can have military honors at his funeral.

Edward Spires wants to have his discharge upgraded from “undesirable” to “honorable,” according to the lawsuit filed in Connecticut federal court.

“After being cast out of the Air Force for being a gay man, Ed rarely spoke of his military service or his discharge, humiliated by the Air Force’s labeling of his service as undesirable,” Spires’ husband David Rosenberg said Friday in a news release. “For the past decades, he has been made to feel ashamed.”

Spires has been barred from Department of Veterans Affairs benefits, which stops him from being buried at a VA cemetery or having military honors at his funeral service.

“Mr. Spires does not want to pass knowing that he will not be honored with a military burial and that the Air Force still refuses to acknowledge the sacrifices he made to serve his country with honor,” the lawsuit states.

Spires enlisted in the Air Force in 1946 and served as a chaplain’s assistant. While stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio in 1947, he was spotted by fellow servicemembers at an off-base Halloween party. One of the airmen mistook Spires’ costume as him dressing as a woman, the suit states.

Read more at: http://www.stripes.com/1.440204

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