Melvin Dwork’s honorable discharge

Righting a wrong, nearly seven decades later.

Nearly 70 years after expelling Melvin Dwork for being gay, the Navy is changing his discharge from “undesirable” to “honorable” — marking what is believed to be the first time the Pentagon has taken such a step on behalf of a World War II veteran since the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

The Navy notified the 89-year-old former corpsman last month that he will now be eligible for the benefits he had long been denied, including medical care and a military burial.

Dwork spent decades fighting to remove the blot on his record.

“I resented that word ‘undesirable,'” said Dwork, who was expelled in 1944, at the height of the war, and is now a successful interior designer in New York. “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.”

Dwork has not allowed to draw GI benefits, and has been denied medical care. As of this week, the Board for Corrections of Naval Records said it would reinstate Dwork’s benefits retroactively.

Kudos to the Navy for putting things right, even if it did take generations too long.

On a related note, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy will come to its official end in just a few days, though House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), who chairs the Military Personnel subcommittee, pleaded with the Pentagon this week not to end the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military.

Their last-ditch argument? The process has been “rushed.”

The Defense Department is apparently ignoring the Republican lawmakers. Starting Tuesday, DADT will be no more, and servicemen and women who were ousted under the old policy will be able to re-enlist if they so choose.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.