Monday, September 19, 2011

For Melvin Dwork, Honor Comes Seventy Years Overdue

Melvin Dwork was in the Navy during World War II.

Melvin Dwork received an 'undesirable' discharge in 1944 for being outed as a gay man.

Melvin Dwork has spent much of the last, nearly seventy years trying to remove this 'blot' on his record.

And now, as the repeal of DADT finally becomes official tomorrow, Melvin Dwork is getting the honorable discharge he wanted, and deserved.

The Navy--in what is believed to be the first time the Pentagon has taken such a step on behalf of a World War II veteran since the repeal of DADT-- is changing his discharge from “undesirable” to “honorable”, and has notified the 89-year-old former corpsman that he is finally entitled to the benefits he'd been denied, like medical care and a military funeral.

"I resented that word 'undesirable.' 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."

But, sadly for Melvin Dwork, with the victory came unsealed records, showing that it was another corpsman, his boyfriend at the time, who turned him in for being gay. Still, I think the victory, after so many decades, must far outweigh that betrayal.

The decision to amend his discharge papers was made by the Board for Corrections of Naval Records, which also that the Navy has undergone a “radical departure” from the outright ban on gays that was in place in 1944, and also pointed out Melvin Dwork’s “exemplary period of active duty”. The board said that changing the terms of his discharge was done “in the interest of justice.”

Justice. Finally. For Melvin Dwork.

Still, about 100,000 troops were discharged as 'undesirbale' between World War II and 1993 for being gay and all of them lost their benefits as a result. Under the more 'relaxed' DADT, about 14,000 troops were forced out, though most of those were given honorable discharges and allowed to draw benefits.

Just like Melvin Dwork can do now. Seventy years later.


1 comment:

froggy said...

I didn't know about the loss of benefits before DADT.