When Melvin Dwork left the Navy in 1944, it was in less-than-desirable circumstances, and that is exactly what was indicated in his discharge papers: undesirable. At that time, homosexuality in the military was more than just frowned upon, it was downright banned, and he was among the estimated 100,000 service members who were discharged between World War II and 1993 because they were gay, losing all the benefits that should have been due them as a result.
Dwork shared: “I resented that word ‘undesirable… 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.”
Now, the Board of Corrections of Naval Records has arrived at a decision to amend Dwork’s records, changing the word “undesirable” to “honorable.”
Aaron Belkin, an expert on gays in the U.S. military at the University of California, Los Angeles, shared: “I think that with the end of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ there is a growing realization within the military that not only gays be allowed to serve openly now but this was probably the wrong policy all along… This illustrates, at least in the case of one person, that the military is trying to set things right.”
As a result of his “undesirable” discharge, Dwork was unable to avail of GI benefits to continue his studies as a young man, and enjoy medica care benefits later on. The decision to amend his records, the Navy Times shared, will make him eligible for these benefits, which the Board said would be paid retroactively.