WWII veteran receives long-awaited honor


PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) – Nelson Henry, Jr. waited 75 years for a pivotal moment. It is at this moment that the army qualifies its discharge of “honorable”.

“I was in disbelief,” said the 96-year-old veteran. “I couldn’t believe this would happen.”

Henry’s recent honor was at the center of the Veterans Day celebration at The Watermark Residences in the Logan Square section of Philadelphia.

Decades ago Henry was demobilized after serving in WWII, his demobilization was classified as a so-called “blue dump”.

The discharge, which was issued on blue paper, was later viewed as a discriminatory practice that deprived thousands of African-American and gay servicemen of military benefits since they had not been honorably discharged.

“(The blue dump) was not dishonorable and it was not honorable,” Henry said of the discriminatory practice.

“It essentially had the effect of being almost dishonorable as it would make it difficult to get a job,” said Henry’s son Dean Henry, who kept his father’s records for decades in anticipation of the day the family would challenge the blue dump.

Nelson Henry, Jr. will address the subject over the years. But over the past two years, the family’s mission has grown more intense, drawing the attention of newspaper articles and even lawmakers. The case was speeded up. And this summer, the family learned that Henry’s blue discharge would be revoked and he would be given an honorable discharge instead.

“He calls it a miracle,” said Dean Henry.

With the new designation, Henry will now be eligible for veterans benefits. But he has already received something even more precious: honor.

“I am happy to have had the opportunity to change him,” he said. “Made me feel good.”

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