After 68 Years, Gay WWII Vet Is Finally Redeemed

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At 91 years old H. Edward Spires was finally honorably discharged. Back in 1946, Spires was only 20 years old. He joined the military in the hopes of protecting his country. At the time, it was called U.S. Army Air Force. Spires became a chaplain’s assistant at the Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. He excelled in the position and was quickly promoted to sergeant in only a year and a half.

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Spires was holding onto a big secret at the time. He was gay but could not let anyone know. He told NBC News, “I lived closeted except when I was off base. I never did anything pertaining to being gay on the base. … I had to leave the base in order to go to a gay bar.” At that time, being gay in the military could warrant a “dishonorable discharge.”

Spires was living his dual life under the radar until something changed in October 1947. The base’s commander, Col. Hokes decided to “clean up the base of homosexuals.”

Everything unraveled for Spires on Halloween when he decided to dress up for a party. His shiny costume caught attention. Spires told NBC News, “I was very sparkly and that was taken as being in drag. Someone at the party recognized me and said, ‘Ah-ha! He must be gay.’”

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After the accusation, Spires was taken to the judge advocate’s office and repeatedly asked if he gay. He was “interrogated for two hours.” At the time, his family did not know he was gay and his mother was coming to visit but Spires was still on trial. He was given the option to confess to “passively participated in homosexual acts,” and stop the questioning. Spires “confessed” and was then sent to a psychiatrist who “asked if he ‘ever had [his] d— sucked,’ and, according to the lawsuit, when he said “yes,” the psychiatrist determined he was gay.”

Spires was sent home with a dishonorable discharge. It wasn’t until 2011 that Spire’s was granted back his honor. The Don’t ask, don’t tell policy was repealed. He told NBC News, “I knew then that I could try and get an honorable discharge.”

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AP noted, after 68 years after being kicked out of the military, his status was finally and officially changed to “honorable.”

He told the Hartford Courant, “My first thought was, ‘It’s about time,’ I can lift my head again.”


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