Gay 79 y.o. Marine dies 2 weeks after discharge finally changed to “honorable”

A sad, yet uplifting, story about Hal Faulkner, a 79 year old gay man who got an “undesirable discharge” from the Marines in 1956, because he’s gay.

Faulkner died Tuesday, less than two weeks after he got the “honorable discharge” he’s been wanting for decades, NPR reports.

Thanks to the help of OurServe-SLDN, Faulkner, who had terminal cancer, was able to finally get his discharge status changed.

NPR reports in a separate story that a change of this type can often take six months.  But the Marines, to their credit, processed it in only two weeks.  Just in time for Faulkner to receive it before his death.  In fact, Faulkner’s doctors only gave him six months to live, a year ago.

HRC says that 114,000 US service members got less-than-honorable discharges because they’re gay, and that many don’t realize they can get their discharge status corrected.

Frank Bruni wrote a beautiful piece about Faulkner a few weeks ago, it’s worth a read.

Here’s the close from one of the NPR pieces:

“I don’t have much longer to live,” Faulkner said, “I will always be a Marine. Thank you. Semper fi.”

The young marines answered him back with the Marines battle cry: “Oorah.”


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Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • sword

    I believe that, about 20 years ago, a lot of WWII military records were destroyed in a warehouse fire. Most of the duplicate files had been thrown out.

  • Martin

    Thanks again Tom–I appreciate that–actually the witchhunts were worse in the 1950s with Senator Joe MCCarthy who saw a F** and/or a communist if you weren’t a Republican! One of the saddest periods in our history.

    The ironic part of my discharge is that ‘the hills were alive ‘with the sound of Marines’ at Camp Pendleton but I waited until I got off base! The thing I am proud of is that I was offered a ‘deal’ if I would turn other Marines in and I didn’t/wouldn’t!

    Will let you know how all this turns out.

  • http://twitter.com/thom1956 Tom Schott

    And, i forgot to say – Thank you for your service and giving that part of your life. – I have many gay friends who have served in the military, my partner included, he served in the mid-70s. He told me about the witch-hunts they had – pretty damn ridiculous.

  • Martin

    Thanks Tom–I had sent a request for my discharge papers about 2 years ago and got them but Hal’s story is getting me off my butt to do something! :O)

  • http://twitter.com/thom1956 Tom Schott

    Hi, Martin – I found the below information at – http://usmilitary.about.com/cs/generalinfo/a/dischargeupg.htm

    ——–
    What i found was a PDF to print for “DD-Form 293″ here: http://arba.army.pentagon.mil/documents/dd0293.pdf

    Fill out and mail that form to the branch you served in:

    ARMY: Army Review Boards Agency, Support Division, St. Louis, ATTN: SFMR-RBR-SL, 9700 Page Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63132-5200

    NAVY & MARINE CORPS: Naval Council of Personnel Boards, 720 Kennon Street, S.E., Rm. 309 (NDRB), Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5023

    AIR FORCE: SAF/MIBR, 550-C Street West, Suite 40, Randolph AFB, TX 78150-4742

    COAST GUARD: Commandant (G-WPM), 2100 Second Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20593-0001

    OR-

    Do a Google search for more links here: http://www.google.com/#q=how%20get%20a%20change%20of%20military%20discharge%20status

    cheers, and good luck!

  • Martin

    As a 78 year old man I would love to get my ‘undesireable’ discharge changed to ‘honorable’–any suggestions on how to start the process?

  • Chuck in PA

    I am glad he had a portion of his dignity restored. Still heroic in his final year. We should all be proud of and show respect for our older gay brothers.

  • blzlovr

    I was able to get 50 plus records from my Grandfather’s WWII service and they had been in a fire. For 65.00 they copied all of them that survived and I could see the burnt edges and water damage. I was able to order them online.

  • Valerie Steven

    Though, many of the military records prior to the 1970s were lost in a fire, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be making an effort to do the right thing.

  • crazymonkeylady

    ‘THE Greatest Generation’ had people who weren’t allowed to be who they are. I salute you all.

  • pappyvet

    Like I was saying yesterday , living in secret was the only way for many of us. It actually caused great fear. One should not have to live in terror in order to serve their country.

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  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    Oh, their whole records system is a complete joke. I’ve been arguing with them for about two years now trying to get my grandfather’s WW2 records. And it costs like 70 bucks a shot just to have them tell you they’re too lazy to look.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Absolutely.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Now THIS is an important public service message. I’m hoping the word gets out there and that there’s public outreach to every gay and lesbian servicemember with an an other-than-honorable discharge.

    And yes, as Naja Pallida says, the DoD should be proactive about this.

  • Teresa Jean

    I agree. There is no reason why ALL those who had received an undesirable discharge should not have had it amended to honourable already.

  • PeteWa

    I’m glad that he was able to see that happen in his lifetime, brought tears to my eyes.

  • http://liberawheeler.blogspot.com/ Elijah Jacob Shalis

    My grandfather was caught in a sex act with another man according to his Navy file in the 50s. He went AWOL because of the pressure and was dishonorably discharged after a previous honorable discharge and earned the National Defense Service Medal. He had no headstone until I filed an appeal on the medal which was not in his file that he earned and filed for a headstone which was granted. The family didn’t know his previous honorable discharge was enough. The second time years later that my mom requested his navy file the police memo about the gay sex was missing and a lot of other stuff was censored. He went on to work for GM and become President of the Local UAW Union.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    The problem is the system and the institutional incompetence that defines it.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    The DoD should be more proactive on cases like this, and go through their own records to exonerate people they wrongfully discharged. Even if some of them may be posthumous. We always talk about how much we owe veterans, those people who chose to serve their country. It’s long past time we actually lived up to the rhetoric, in so many ways. Though, many of the military records prior to the 1970s were lost in a fire, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be making an effort to do the right thing.

  • Indigo

    There were many such. I wonder if the Pentagon will comb through the files and undo the dishonors.
    I can’t say I’m optimistic about that, it’d be unusually proactive for them.

  • cole3244

    this is similar to the way the black soldiers, sailors, & airmen were treated during wwll, they could fight, bleed, & die but couldn’t break bread with citizen white back home, what a country.

    our leaders have always been less then desirable and that is similarly true today.

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