Thursday, January 11, 2018

Air Force Veteran Fights Wrongful Discharge...at 90!

The Air Force expelled her in 1955 for being a lesbian. Now, at 90, she is fighting back
The Washington Post
Kyle Swenson
January 11, 2018

Her military career was over when she inked her name on the document. On March 3, 1955, James received an “undesirable” discharge from the Air Force.
Helen James at her home in California. 
(Courtesy of Helen James)

The barracks were thick with anxious whispers and rumors, but she figured there was nothing incriminating about leaving the air base for a sandwich.
On a Friday night in 1955, Airman Second Class Helen Grace James and another female service member left the field after work for dinner in a nearby town. The place was too crowded to sit down, so after getting food the two drove the wooded area south of where Hempstead Harbor stabs into Long Island. They found a quiet spot to eat. James cut the engine. She was reaching for her sandwich when flashlight beams ignited the car interior. Air Police. From the base. They had been followed.
“They asked us what we were doing,” James recently told The Washington Post.
James went on to a very successful life after the military. But she never fully pulled free from the experience. Now, at 90, and living in California, she’s fighting to right the historical wrong with a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Air Force. The complaint asks the court to upgrade her discharge to “honorable,” thus restoring the California woman’s rights and honor as a veteran.read more here