90 Year-Old Lesbian Awarded Honorable Discharge From Air Force 62 Years After Her Expulsion For Being Gay

NBC News reports:

A FedEx delivery arrived at Helen Grace James’ door on Wednesday. It was a message from the U.S. Air Force. She called two of her closest friends to come be with her before she opened it, and they arrived 20 minutes later.

Once she opened it, she received the good news: The military had upgraded her discharge status to “honorable.” James had been waiting for this for more than six decades. “I’m still trying to process it,” she told NBC News. “It was both joy and shock. It was really true. It was really going to be an ‘honorable discharge.'”

For James, now 90, it has been a long journey to this moment of vindication. “It’s hard to take in,” she said. “I’m wondering if I’m in a dream or a wish.”

See my original post about her lawsuit here.

  • 🐾vorpal🐾

    Good for her! Those who served their country honourably deserve nothing less.

    • SFBruce

      It’s nice to get a little good news, when there’s just way too much bad.

  • easygoingmister

    Finally some good news.

  • bkmn

    The military can change and adapt to the times better than the GOP.

    • Karl Dubhe 2

      They’d rather win battles, than lose them.

      That’s not always a bad thing.

    • canoebum

      God, let’s hope so.

  • medaka


  • William

    Amazing it went through so quickly. Congratulations!

    • Christian1234567

      If I remember earlier stories correctly, she sued because they wouldn’t change it. Once she sued and the story got national attention, they quickly changed it. It was quick after the lawsuit, but it’s taken a while from the time she first tried to get it changed.

      • William

        Publicity helps speed things along.

      • prixator

        And I don’t doubt that there was someone there saying “she’s 90. If she sues for backdated [earned] benefits, we can just delay and delay until she’s dead”.

        • Christian1234567

          I’m sure you’re correct.

  • Dramphooey

    The bad guys haven’t won yet.

  • Christopher
  • Bambino
  • Boreal

    They also owe her money in benefits denied all of these years.

    • Robincho

      Too bad we just stopped paying the military. Thanks, Yertle…

    • mark99k

      Yeah, I’m surprised the article makes no mention of this. She could sue for those benefits and likely win, but I’m not sure I’d want that kind of stress at 90.

  • stuckinthewoods

    She should be compensated for any lost benefits. “Honorable is the only discharge that doesn’t have a negative effect on a veteran’s benefits.”

  • Skeptical_Inquirer

    I’m glad she won and that they didn’t drag it on and on.

  • DaddyRay

    She looks fantastic for 90

  • DaddyRay

    Does this entitle her to any backpay or compensation for lost benefits

    • Lazycrockett

      Not with the guberment shutdown.

  • Boreal

    How every senator voted on the spending bill. McTurtle voted no and 5 dems voted yes.


    • Hank

      The 5 Dems are in Republican States, most, except Jones, are up for re-election and were probably given the UK, by Schumer.
      More notable, are the Rethuglicans who voted against the CR!

      • DaddyRay

        I think Jones was the most disappointing

        • Lazycrockett

          Jones is trying to find his feet and read the Alabama voters reaction. Seeing how his constituents react will determine which way he goes from here.

          • DaddyRay

            I am sure he is but the Democratic party spent a lot of money and provided a lot of support to get him there

          • Lazycrockett

            I have just as many democrat friends who do not believe in a government shut down than ones that do, specially older dems.

          • DaddyRay

            We don’t want a government shutdown but we can’t cave on democratic principals either

          • UrsusArctos 🐻

            If a principled vote would have moved the issue you are right. Inflaming marginal voters he will need would make all that money spent a waste. He will have a hard enough fight to keep the seat without using political capital on an issue he cannot make a difference on. Real politik sucks, but Democrats need to get better at it or plan on losing even more, possibly our democracy.

        • UrsusArctos 🐻

          Jones will likely vote for MOST GOP bills, he DOES represent Alabama, sadly. The Democratic money and effort were spent for a Democrat able to vote for a Democratic majority leader and against the worst bills. They have to choose their fights carefully. This bill was dead with or without his vote.

          • DaddyRay

            He will not get reelected – Republicans will not put up such a flawed candidate and he will have pissed of the Democrats enough that they will not turn out for him.

          • UrsusArctos 🐻

            Likely, but at least he can vote for a Senate Majority Leader if Democrats pull it off this fall.
            I INTENSELY dislike the type of Democrat Jones is. Blue Dogs are as repulsive as GOPers to me, but reality intervenes.
            I live in deepest dixie and know that any Democrat we elect will have one use only. Voting for a Democratic Majority leader. Most Democrats in Alabama know that. The people he has to appeal to are the GOPers who will tolerate a Democrat if they buck the party on more issues than not. People outside of the reddest of fly-over-country need to come to grips with this. It is NOT a good situation, but it’s better than an effective GOPer (or Roy Moore) holding that seat for 2 years and beyond.
            Jones MAY be able to walk that tightrope, but even if he can’t he’ll gum the GOP works up on the biggest issues.

  • Dunkerblinker

    Well its about damn time. Good for her!!!

  • Leo
  • This wouldn’t satisfy me. I’d expect a big fat check for the loss of military benefits – benefits every honorably discharged soldier has received. “Oops, we’re sorry,” just doesn’t cut it.

    • DaddyRay

      I am wondering if this is the first step needed to pursue that case

      • LesbianTippingHabits

        Sadly, it’s not worth it. Take the honorable discharge and move on.

        • DaddyRay

          Actually my friend Randy was in the Army and got his discharge status changed and has been working with a lawyer to restore VA benefits and get back compensation. He was saying his lawyer told him once one thing is overturned it opens the doors for an entire array of compensation

          • LesbianTippingHabits

            DaddyRay, I’m not disagreeing with you, but at age 90, actuarially speaking, I think she deserves to have a positive outlook on life; that won’t come with a lawsuit.

            Just because an attorney tells you something, does not mean that it will happen, or by a certain time, or without drama and further emotional pain.

            At age 90, she should take her honorable discharge and move on.

            During DADT, so many American patriots had to do that.

            Thank you again for sharing this information.

          • DaddyRay

            At age 90 she may need the VA benefits

          • LeeCMH


  • LesbianTippingHabits

    Congratulations, thank you, and well done!

    It’s never too late for anyone, including an institution, to do the right thing.

  • Gigi

    Some good news for a change!

  • BearEyes

    Very happy for her
    Sucks it took so long
    Hope her efforts to recover lost benefits takes much less time

  • Mark McGovern

    I call her “Hero”. We can’t have too many.

    • prixator

      We need many more.

  • JWC

    It is just too bad that it took as long as it did but at least they did Congrats and Hugz to this little lady

  • fuzzybits

    Good for her. And more good years for her.

  • Dayglo

    She’s owed more than that. Personally, I’d like a little compensation for enduring all of my bosses’ fag jokes.

  • Publius

    I was discharged under DADT 10 years ago. This is a really touching story, but there’s been an orderly process for upgrading discharges since repeal. Successful discharge upgrades are now the rule, not the exception. I wonder what special circumstance there was that made this difficult.

  • GanymedeRenard

    Late, but well deserved! Congratulations, ma’am! And thanks for your service.

  • TimCA

    I heard a brief report about Ms. James on NPR. What a wonderful story of surviving the heel of oppression that older generations of LGBT people have had to endure in this country. Also an important reminder for all LGBT Americans today, there are people who now hold power in this country that would like nothing better than to see us shoved right back into the shadows, defenseless without civil rights and protections.

    • The mor(m)on at work said outright that,yes, he wanted us (my husband and I) back into the closet, when asked during a break.

  • BeaverTales

    What did it say???

    “Congratulations, we’ve been debating it for 62 years, and we’ve finally agreed on one thing: You’re a patriotic American who served your country with honor, and also a human being…so we’ve decided to start treating you like one”

    • Jean-Marc in Canada

      Pretty much I suspect.

  • Lars Littlefield

    Congrats. I’m over whelmed and very happy for her.

  • LeeCMH

    While I am happy for her, this may be a preemptive effort to keep from paying her any compensation.

  • anne marie in philly

    YAYZ! some good news on women’s march day! 🙂

  • Alexodia

    Nice to have a little good news in this day and age.

  • leastyebejudged

    Nice that she got this before she died.

    Most people weren’t so lucky.

    They died betrayed by their country. I will never forget that.

    Where’s their “justice” ?

  • itsnwman

    ALL gay men and women who were kicked out for their sexuality should get honorable discharges. But trumpppppppppp…

  • Coprolite

    HURRAY for Helen!!
    Thanks for your service.

  • yeah, i thought about that. in my case it was racial, sexual and orientation. i could probably get them for all three. but back then? no, it was just too hard. i had no resources, i was young and confused, and today i only remember the worst parts. a long court case interests me not in the least, to restore my rightful benefits.