Gay Air Force Veteran Reflects on Change to his Military Record

Sixty-eight years after the U.S. Air Force dismissed now 91-year-old Ed Spires because of his sexual orientation, he can finally say he was discharged honorably from the military.

“If I didn’t accomplish this before I died,” Spires said, “no one else was going to.”

Spires enlisted in 1946 and he served as a chaplain’s assistant at an Air Force base in San Antonio.

His supervisors didn’t learn about his sexual orientation, Spires said, until another military member mistook a sparkly Halloween costume for dressing in drag.

“That new Oxydol Sparkle,” he said of his costume, “that’s how I’m going to go to the party.”

Spires said his supervisors wanted to make an example out of him before the Air Force kicked him out in 1948.

“And most of that time I was being prosecuted in one way or the other on the base,” he said.

Spires said he is thankful President Obama signed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” at the end of 2010.

“If it hadn’t been for that,” he said, “I’d still be under that cloud.”

In November, the Yale Veterans Legal Services Clinic announced a federal lawsuit against the Air Force for not having already changed Spire’s discharge status, despite numerous efforts.

“The news media brought this to worldwide attention,” Spires said, “it’s all over the country, I’ve gotten calls from everywhere.”

Spires longtime spouse David Rosenberg spoke on his behalf at the news conference because he had recently been hospitalized with pneumonia.

“I was at death’s door,” he said, “knocking on the door, but nobody answered thank goodness.”

Now, Spires hopes his story can inspire other gay veterans seeking the same justice.

“I know it can be done and all you got to do is have the fortitude, the hang-on ability to be knocked down 15 times and get up again,” he said.

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