Air Force approves discharge upgrade for 91-year-old gay veteran

Edward Spires, left, in 1946.
Edward Spires, left, in 1946.

Air Force approves discharge upgrade for 91-year-old gay veteran

by: Nikki Wentling | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: January 10, 2017

WASHINGTON – Nearly 69 years after Hubert “Edward” Spires was kicked out of the military for being gay, the Air Force has upgraded his discharge status from “undesirable” to “honorable.”

In November, Spires, 91, filed a lawsuit in Connecticut federal court against Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, following two years of fighting with the Board of Military Records for a correction. The Air Force, which previously said it lacked the military records necessary to make the change, signed an upgrade Thursday.

“Mr. Spires and his partner are happy to finally have the discharge status that Mr. Spires deserves and has waited so long for,” Erin Baldwin, a Yale law school student working on Spires’ case, wrote in an email.

An undesirable discharge – referred to as “bad paper” – has barred Spires from Department of Veterans Affairs benefits, including the option of being buried at a VA cemetery or having military honors at his funeral service.

Spires was prompted to appeal his discharge after experiencing health problems.

“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.

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