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91-Year-Old Gay Veteran's Discharge Retroactively Changed To 'Honorable'

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- After waiting for 70 years, a gay veteran from Norwalk, Connecticut is finally getting the recognition he deserves.

As WCBS 880's Alex Silverman reported, H. Edward Spires, 91, who goes by Ed, was dismissed from the U.S. Air Force as ``undesirable'' in 1948 because he is gay. He has now had the discharge retroactively changed to "honorable."

It was 1947 at Blackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

"I was visiting off base at a Halloween party," Spires said.

Spires' fellow servicemen turned him in for wearing a costume that looked like drag. The decision was swift – with "undesirable" discharge, it was like Spires had never served at all.

"Going to hospitals, going to the dentist, with the government paying for it -- I was entitled to all that," Spires said.

Seven decades passed, and when President Barack Obama repealed the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, Spires said, "I had high hopes that it would happen."

But there was another hurdle. The Air Force said Spires' records were lost in a 1973 fire.

"They were claiming that I was never in the service," he said.

But with the help of Yale University law students, Spires proved it. There was no apology from the Air Force on Monday, just a statement that there is evidence to demonstrate the existence of injustice.

(TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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