Nearly 70 years after expelling Melvin Dwork for being gay, the Navy is changing his discharge from "undesirable" to "honorable" - marking 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 "don't ask, don't tell."
The Navy notified the 89-year-old former corpsman last month that he will now be eligible for the benefits he had long been denied, including medical care and a military burial. Dwork spent decades fighting to remove the blot on his record.
"I resented that word `undesirable,'" said Dwork, who was expelled in 1944, at the height of the war, and is now a successful interior designer in New York. "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."
For Dwork, victory came with a heartbreaking truth: Last year, when the Navy finally released his records, he learned that his name had been given up by his own boyfriend at the time.
The decision to amend his discharge papers was made by the Board for Corrections of Naval Records in Washington.