Woman earns honorable discharge 60 years after Air Force kicked her out for being gay
© Hellen Grace James

A Pennsylvania woman earned her honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force this week, more than 60 years after she was discharged as "undesirable" for being gay.

NPR reported Saturday that Helen Grace James, 90, a former airman 2nd Class, received her honorable discharge this week after decades of fighting the government for recognition.


James was investigated for homosexuality and subsequently discharged from the service in 1955 after investigators threatened to tell her family she was gay. She was told to sign a statement and was discharged as "undesirable," according to NPR.

"I'm still trying to process it," she told NBC. "It was both joy and shock. It was really true. It was really going to be an 'honorable discharge.'"

The ban on openly gay members of the military was not lifted until 2010. The policy change was celebrated at the time by the Obama administration.

“Since the repeal of DADT [don't ask, don't tell], I’ve received hundreds of letters from service members who can now serve their country openly,” former President Obama wrote in a Facebook post in 2015 on the five-year anniversary of the repeal.

“Their stories are a powerful reminder of how much has changed over the past five years,” he added.

"Don't ask, don't tell," a Clinton-era policy that allowed gay members of the military to serve if they were not open about their sexuality, was a central campaign point of Obama's 2008 presidential run.