StoryCorps Shorts: A Life of Honor
When Joseph Patton joined the Navy in 1955, he had to serve in silence. At the time, the LGBTQ community could not be open while in the military. Despite being the “perfect sailor,” Joseph was kicked out of the Navy under the assumption that he was homosexual. At StoryCorps, Joseph remembers the pride he took in his service and the beauty and joy that love has brought to his life.
Joseph Patton (JP): My dad told me going in the service
would help me be a man, but I chose the Navy
because I like the uniforms.
They were tight and cute with bell bottoms.
Lord have mercy.
I was exploring my sexuality, but you could not be gay
in the service at that time.
There was a group of us that hung out together.
We drank together, we played cards, we became friends.
But when these two guys told the commanders they were lovers,
everybody that were close friends with
those guys was arrested.
And I was kicked out of the service for being friends
with a homosexual.
They gave me an undesirable discharge.
That was the worst time in my life.
To be in the service for my country is the greatest thing
I thought I did.
I was a perfect sailor.
I did my job very well.
So that whole period is almost like a dream.
A lot of it I didn't want to think about because
it hurt so much.
And I was so ashamed.
But, you know, I can't live in the past.
Love has no limits in my life and love
surprises me all the time.
I'm 81 years old but sometimes I get up and dance.
I shake my ass with life.
And I'm blessed that I can feel like that.
Decades after his undesirable discharge from
the military, Joseph was able to get it changed to honorable.
Joseph died July 6, 2020 at the age of 83.