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Thu January 16, 2014

Marine Who Got An 'Honorable Last Wish' Dies Of Cancer

Originally published on Thu January 16, 2014 3:07 pm

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Last week on this program, we heard of the dying wish of a man who served as a U.S. Marine. Hal Faulkner had hoped to receive his honorable discharge from the Marines six decades after he was kicked out of the service for being gay. He got his wish. And now we must report that 11 days after receiving his wish, Mr. Faulkner has died after a battle with cancer.

Here's NPR's Quil Lawrence.

QUIL LAWRENCE, BYLINE: Hal Faulkner joined the Marines in 1953 and served in the Philippines. But in 1956 someone told his command he was gay and that was enough to get him an undesirable discharge. Since the Pentagon repealed the ban on gay troops, it's possible to get a discharge for homosexuality corrected. But the process can take months. And Faulkner had already lived longer than his doctors predicted.

His lawyer Anne Brooksher-Yen pushed the military to expedite the case, but it didn't look good.

ANNE BROOKSHER-YEN: I did have a conversation with him where I told him, you know, that we might not be able to get this done before he died.

LAWRENCE: Because it was Faulkner's dying wish, the Marine Corps somehow settled his case in just two weeks. A group of friends and family - and three active duty troops - gathered to present him with his upgraded honorable discharge just after New Years.

Officially, Faulkner said, he was a Marine again.

HAL FAULKNER: And I didn't think that maybe I would last through all the battles that we've had, but a Marine is always a Marine.

LAWRENCE: In the years before "don't ask, don't tell," more than 100,000 men and women were kicked out of the service, with bad discharges, for being gay. A patchwork of organizations is helping those vets correct their records - so they can get access to VA health care, the GI bill, and home loans.

Hal Faulkner wasn't after any of that. He just wanted his country to acknowledge - even 60 years late - that he served honorably. He will get one benefit. When his niece told him he was eligible for a military funeral, he was overcome - all he could do was nod yes. He passed away on Tuesday.

Quil Lawrence, NPR News.

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INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.