Melvin Dwork lived with the a military discharge of undesirable for nearly 70 years for being a homosexual, before the Pentagon took a step - for the first time since the repeal of don't ask, don't tell - to award him an honorable discharge.
The Navy notified the 89-year-old former corpsman last month that he will now be eligible for the benefits he had long been denied, including medical care and a military burial, the AP reported.
I resented that word 'undesirable,' said Dwork, who was expelled in 1944, at the height of the war, and is now an interior designer in New York. That word really stuck in my craw. To me it was a terrible insult. It had to be righted. It's really worse than 'dishonorable.' I think it was the worst word they could have used.
The military Board for Corrections of Naval Records in Washington, during the proceedings held on Aug. 17, noted that the Navy's ban on homosexuals has undergone a radical departure.
I think that with the end of don't ask, don't tell, there is a growing realization within the military that not only gays be allowed to serve openly now but this was probably the wrong policy all along, Aaron Belkin, an expert on gays in the U.S. military at the University of California, Los Angeles, told the AP. This illustrates, at least in the case of one person, that the military is trying to set things right.
Dwork was denied GI benefits and medical care due to his undesirable discharge and said that he couldn't afford a hearing aid in his later years. In the past years he had filed numerous requests to the Navy for a repeal of the discharge.
However, Dwork's victory came along with an upsetting truth. According to the navy records it was his former boyfriend who gave up his name, when pressurized by the officials as part of hunting down the gays, which led to his expulsion.
A congressional bill to repeal don't ask, don't tell (DADT) - a policy that prohibits military personnel from discriminating against or harassing closeted homosexual or bisexual service members or applicants, while barring openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons from military service - was enacted in December 2010.
On July 6, 2011, a ruling from a federal appeals court barred further enforcement of the U.S. military's ban on openly gay service members.
President Obama, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sent that certification to Congress on July 22, 2011, setting the end of DADT for Sept. 20, 2011.