Hal Faulkner was kicked out of the Marines in 1956 for being gay. His paperwork attributed the termination as an "undesirable discharge," but 58 years later, as Faulkner's dying wish, the files have been amended to state he was "honorably discharged." The notification was hand delivered to the 79-year-old veteran by a small group of officers at a ceremony in Florida.
"I don't know what to say, it's just incredible that I'm still here," Faulkner said. "I will always be a Marine. Thank you. Semper fi."
NPR reports that Faulkner, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer a few years ago, came out to his family in 2005, introducing them to his partner of more than 20 years. In 2011, the military repealed its "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, allowing for vets like Faulkner to apply for upgraded files.
It's a process that typically takes at least six months, but for Faulkner, who served in the Philippines, it happened in two weeks.
"I didn't think that maybe I would last through all the battles that we've had, but a Marine is always a Marine," he commented.
Faulkner's niece, Michelle Clark, told the outlet, "I always knew he served in the Marines, but no one in the family knew of the [undesirable] discharge… he's been carrying this societal shame with him all these years."
Not everyone had the same opportunity as Faulkner. CNN recently reported on a story about Alan Turing, a British code-breaker in World War II who was subjected to chemical castration for his homosexual activity, receiving a royal pardon 60 years after he committed suicide. The pardon came after an online petition in 2009 drew thousands of signatures asking for Prime Minister Gordon Brown to issue an apology. It stated that Turing's sentence was "unjust and discriminatory," and that he deserved to be recognized.
In order for Faulkner's wish to come true, he went through the charity organization Outserve - SLDN, whose mission is to empower, support, and defend the Department of Defense and military service LGBT community, and their families. The organization helped him get a pro-bono lawyer, who served his request and expedited the process.
Hal wrote a note on the organization's website, thanking it and his "supporters" for helping him receive justice.
"Almost 60 years ago, I enlisted in the Marine Corps to serve my country," he wrote. "After three years of exemplary service, I was discharged with a "less than honorable" service record when an acquaintance told my commanding officer I was gay. A simple allegation was all it took back then. The shame that I privately carried with me for six decades came to an end last week when the Navy corrected my discharge to "honorable.""
He continued, "I've lived a rich, full life. I now die knowing that my country finally -- finally -- recognized my service."
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