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90-Year-Old Lesbian Finally Receives Honorable Discharge From Air Force 62 Years Later

Image via Helen Grace James

In 1952, Helen Grace James joined the Air Force as a radio operator to serve the country she loves.

But while stationed at Roslyn Air Force Base in New York, she came under suspicion of being lesbian. She soon realized she was being followed by the Office of Special Investigations.

And on a cold winter night in 1955, her 3 years of impeccable service came to an end. She was arrested, interrogated and forced to sign a document under threat of being outed to her family.

She was discharged from the Air Force as “undesirable.” That left her unemployed and unable to even utilize the G.I. bill for education.

She couldn’t even apply for insurance through USAA.

She was a victim of what could to be known as “the Lavender Scare.”

But this week, 90-year-old Helen received extra-special good news.

From NBC News today:

A FedEx delivery arrived at Helen Grace James’ door on Wednesday. It was a message from the U.S. Air Force. She called two of her closest friends to come be with her before she opened it, and they arrived 20 minutes later.

Once she opened it, she received the good news: The military had upgraded her discharge status to “honorable.” James had been waiting for this for more than six decades.

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

For James, now 90, it has been a long journey to this moment of vindication. “It’s hard to take in,” she said. “I’m wondering if I’m in a dream or a wish.”

The change in status was prompted by a lawsuit filed by James earlier this month.

She won’t receive the official paperwork for a few weeks, but she tells NBC News she can wait a little bit longer.

“The Air Force recognizes me as a full person in the military,” she said, having done “my job helping to take care of the country I love.”

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