Faulkner joined the Marines in 1953, and served in the Philippines. In 1956, he got kicked out with an “undesirable discharge” for being gay. His military papers said “homosexual” on them, quite an obstacle in the 1950s.
Still, Faulkner moved on, and had a successful career in sales.
A few years ago, when he got diagnosed with terminal cancer, Faulkner contacted his family about a dying wish.
"I always knew he served in the Marines, but no one in the family knew of the [undesirable] discharge," says his niece, Michelle Clark.
Faulkner had come out to his family in 2005, attending a wedding with his partner of more than 20 years. But now he told them that the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” had made it possible to get his military discharge upgraded after years of avoiding the subject.
"He’s been carrying this societal shame with him all these years," Clark says. "We as a family had no idea the pain he had inside of him."
But a correction of military records usually takes at least six months, as well as a lawyer. The activist group OutServe-SLDN helped Faulkner get a pro-bono lawyer from the New York firm Winston & Strawn.
When lawyer Anne Brooksher-Yen saw the case and the time frame, she was worried, even when the military agreed to expedite the case.
"I didn’t know whether expedited was going to mean six weeks or six months," Anne Brooksher-Yen says. "So I did have a conversation with him that we might not be able to get this done before he died."
The Marines acted on his dying request in just two weeks. Last Friday in Florida, a small group presented Faulkner with his honorable discharge.
"I didn’t think that maybe I would last through all the battles that we’ve had, but a Marine is always a Marine," Faulkner said at the ceremony.