Gay veteran who sued Air Force prevails

NORWALK, Conn. (WTNH) — Seven decades in the making U.S. Air Force Veteran  Ed Spires, 92, has finally been vindicated.

“It took 71 years to do it,” Spires told News 8 Monday from his Norwalk home. “Good thing they got it done in time.”

Spires was kicked out of the Air Force in 1948, slapped with an “undesirable discharge” after it was discovered that he is gay. Nearly 70 years later — joined by his long-time partner turned husband and fellow-military veteran, David Rosenberg — Spires still remembers the feeling of being labeled an outcast.

“Well makes you feel like a criminal,” Spires said. “Makes you feel like you’re worthless.”

After the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, in 2010, Spires requested a discharge upgrade. The Air Force responded by saying that the paperwork documenting why he was discharged was destroyed in a fire back in the 70s, and left the matter unchanged. In November — with the help of the Yale Law School Veterans Services Clinic — Spires sued the Air Force.

“It did not tell him how to attempt to proceed without those records or provide him other means to obtain documents of his service,” said Erin Baldwin, a Yale Law School student.

On Friday, Spires finally got word that his military discharge was upgraded to “honorable,” which most likely will grant him full military benefits upon further review. And more importantly, providing dignity after 70 years of humiliation.

“I spent so many years fighting against it. Trying to overturn it. Trying to do whatever I could do to correct the situation,” Spires said.

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