Hal Faulkner, a gay man whose last wish came true earlier this month when his discharge from the U.S. Marines was changed from “undesirable” to “honorable,” has died.
NPR’s Quil Lawrence, who told Morning Edition listeners about Faulkner last week, says that the 79-year-old Faulkner died Tuesday in Florida.
It was about a year ago that doctors told Faulkner he had cancer in his lungs, liver and adrenal glands. It was thought he might have six months or less to live.
Quil picks up the story:
“Faulkner joined the Marines in 1953 and served in the Philippines. But in 1956, someone told his command he was gay. That was enough to get him an ‘undesirable’ discharge.
“Since the Pentagon has repealed the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ ban on gay troops, it’s now possible to get a discharge for homosexuality corrected. But the process can take months. … His lawyer, Anne Brooksher-Yen, pushed the military to expedite the case, but it didn’t look good.
“[But] 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 Year’s Day.
“Officially, Faulkner said, he was a Marine again.
” ‘I didn’t think … I would last through all the battles that we’ve had,’ ” he said, ‘but a Marine is always a Marine.’ ”
At the end of the small ceremony earlier this month where he was given his honorable discharge, Faulkner thanked the two young Marines and the Air Force lieutenant colonel who had delivered the news. As Quil also reported:
” ‘I don’t have much longer to live,’ Faulkner said. ‘I will always be a Marine. Thank you. Semper fi.’
“The young Marines answered him back with the Marines battle cry: ‘Oorah.’ ”