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Should Those Who Served and Were Dishonorably Discharged Due to Sexual Orientation Have Their Status Changed?

Posted by on Jan. 10, 2014 at 1:05 PM
  • 7 Replies

Former Marine's Dying Wish Finally Comes True After 57-Year Battle

by Michele Zipp

marinesHal Faulkner enlisted in the Marines in 1953. He was one of eight children in his family, and his father passed away when he was just 7 years old. The family struggled financially, and they lived on a cattle ranch in the north part of Florida. When he was 19, he attended boot camp in South Carolina and rose through the ranks from private first class to corporal, then to sergeant. He served in the Philippines. He was on his way to the top. But then something happened.

In 1956, when he was 22 years old, he was dishonorably discharged after three years of service. Proud service. He never had an issue -- his record was clean, no insubordination, there were no write-ups of incompetence or laziness. But there were rumors ... and injustice.

An acquaintance of Hal's told his commanding officer that Hal was gay. He was immediately discharged with the classification "other than honorable." Hal describes that moment as something that "wrecked" him. Here we are all these years later. Hal is now 79 and the cancer in his body is taking over. And even though he thought he made peace with his discharge from the Marines, in his final days, he found himself reflecting on his service.

"They gave up on me," he told Frank Bruni of The New York Times. "I never forget it."

There have been 110,000 gay, lesbian, and bisexual service men and women discharged over the years due to their sexual orientation. And of course, there was Don't Ask Don't Tell. But in 2011, laws were changed and those who were dishonorably discharged can appeal. So that's what Hal decided to do. At 79. With cancer in his liver, lungs, and adrenal glands and a six months to live diagnosis a year ago. He's living on borrowed time some may say. He's nearly deaf and has a hard time speaking. He has around the clock care and family by his side. He is predeceased by his partner, the love of his life. But he's living long enough to be honored as he should have been.

Hal received his letter of honorable discharge thanks to the work of his lawyer, who presented it to him along with a member of OutServe-SLDN’s board of directors and two local Marines in uniform.

All that shame, the sadness, lifted. With the letter tightly gripped in his hands, Hal said with tears in his eyes, "I don’t have much longer to live, but I shall always remember it." He thanked everyone in the room. Then he cried. "It’s often said that a man doesn’t cry. I am a Marine and I am a man. So please forgive me."

Wow. He deserves this. He never deserved anything less than honor. We've come such a long way, we still have more to go, but learning about a 79-year-old man experiencing this is living proof of the long journey it took us to get where we are today. How it's taken us far too long.

Should more of those who served come forward to have their status changed if they were dishonorably discharged due to sexual orientation?

Should the military just look into it and change it without being asked?

by on Jan. 10, 2014 at 1:05 PM
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Replies (1-7):
NickLukeandEmma
by Courtney on Jan. 10, 2014 at 2:33 PM

My issue with changing them is that with any other new change to laws or regulations would then also have to be changed retroactively. 

I think in this specific case there were nothing more than rumors started by one person. I think drawing an overall conclusion from one case is reaching a bit.

jas_momof2
by アニメの雌犬 on Jan. 10, 2014 at 4:18 PM

Depends and it should be on a case by case basis...

denise3680
by Bronze Member on Jan. 11, 2014 at 1:02 PM

If they were discharged because they were found to be gay and no other reason then hell yes, their status should be changed.  IMO, they should never have been put out because of their sexual orientation in the first place, but that is neither here nor there at this point:/

TAG9lbs
by Member on Jan. 11, 2014 at 5:57 PM

I agree its on a case by case basis. however as long as they haven't served time in jail then YES they deserve the right to have the status changed to honorably discharged. Some of the greatest men i served with were gay and declared me a gf to help them out. 

knightladywing
by Member on Jan. 13, 2014 at 9:48 AM
1 mom liked this

This is hard because while I have known those during don't ask don't tell that served honorably and kept there relationships private I have also known others that when they just didn't want to be in the military anymore go up to the commander and tell them "I'm homosexual and I can not stay in the closet anymore" and got released. So yes a case to case study needs to be done but it probably won't except in cases where the person actually asks for an appeal.

Katkinson
by on Jan. 13, 2014 at 10:41 AM

OOH!  I love legal questions!

Honestly?  No.  I'm sure it's the unpopular opinion, but these people chose to serve in the military.  They knew the regulations prior to signing on the dotted line.   A JUST LAW or not, it was the law nonetheless. 

The individuals who are openly gay in the military now did not WILLINGLY choose to violate any policies.  The individuals who were openly gay in the military BEFORE the repeal of "don't ask don't tell" DID WILLINGLY violate policies. 

They made the conscious choice to defy a standing regulation.  Doesn't any heterosexual soldier or sailor that does the same get reprimanded and even sometimes processed out under a dishonorable discharge???

Isn't it dishonorable to know a specific policy within the military exists and knowingly defy it?  Again, this has nothing to do with whether the policy was "right" or "fair". 

I was in under "don't ask don't tell".  My roommate before I got housing in Hawaii and moved in with my BF at the time ( husband now) was gay.  She was Air Force ( joint command we worked at)  her girlfriend lived with us.  She kept her private life quiet and conducted herself in a professional manner.  She's still in.  DH served both during and after the repeal.  There's a guy that still lives in town here that was able to "come out". 

I think it is wonderful that individuals no longer have to hide who they truly are.  HOWEVER, rules are rules and the military is ALL about rules.  Whether you agree with a set of regulations or not doesn't really count to a hill of beans.  The individual service member is there to follow orders and regulations honorably.  Those that defied "don't ask don't tell" did not. 

Anonymous
by Anonymous 1 on Jan. 13, 2014 at 10:46 AM

Thank you!

Quoting Katkinson:

OOH!  I love legal questions!

Honestly?  No.  I'm sure it's the unpopular opinion, but these people chose to serve in the military.  They knew the regulations prior to signing on the dotted line.   A JUST LAW or not, it was the law nonetheless. 

The individuals who are openly gay in the military now did not WILLINGLY choose to violate any policies.  The individuals who were openly gay in the military BEFORE the repeal of "don't ask don't tell" DID WILLINGLY violate policies. 

They made the conscious choice to defy a standing regulation.  Doesn't any heterosexual soldier or sailor that does the same get reprimanded and even sometimes processed out???

I was in under "don't ask don't tell".  My roommate before I got housing in Hawaii and moved in with my BF at the time ( husband now) was gay.  She was Air Force ( joint command we worked at)  her girlfriend lived with us.  She kept her private life quiet and conducted herself in a professional manner.  She's still in.  DH served both during and after the repeal.  There's a guy that still lives in town here that was able to "come out". 

I think it is wonderful that individuals no longer have to hide who they truly are.  HOWEVER, rules are rules and the military is ALL about rules.  Whether you agree with a set of regulations or not doesn't really count to a hill of beans.  The individual service member is there to follow orders and regulations honorably.  Those that defied "don't ask don't tell" did not. 

 

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