The US ban on homosexuals serving openly in the military officially ends on Tuesday.
It brings to an end a policy which had long been denounced by gay rights groups. Barack Obama signed a law to repeal it last December.
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was a compromise measure, designed to stop military personnel from discriminating against homosexuals as long as they were not open about their sexuality.
It was introduced in 1993 under then-President Clinton, who had campaigned to allow gay people to serve. The reality was that the policy remained little changed from the days when there was an absolute ban.
World War II was still raging when Melvin Dwork was kicked out of the navy for being gay, aged 19. Nearly 70 years later he is still owed benefits, withdrawn because of the status of his original discharge.
Documents from the time state that he was “undesirable”, and that “unfitness” was the reason for his dismissal.
After “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was introduced, he petitioned the US Navy to change his status, and was eventually successful. In August this year it was duly altered to “honourable”.
Dwork welcomes the end of the discriminatory era, saying “It has to be replaced with a totally different attitude, a totally open moral attitude. Equality.”
Even though “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was designed to limit discrimination, more than 14,500 US service members were still thrown out of the military because of their sexuality, according to a rights group.
The Pentagon now says it is ready for a new era, and recruiters are already accepting applications from openly gay people.