War veteran receives apology 30 years after being forced out over sexuality

A war veteran has spoken about the pressure of living a "double-life" serving in the Navy following the return of his medal.

War veteran, Joe Ousalice, sitting in front of a a chest of drawers with photos.

A British war veteran has opened up about his experience under the discriminatory rules of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) following the return of his good conduct honour medal. 

Joe Ousalice, a war veteran, was discharged in 1993 after his superiors discovered he was bisexual. Due to a restrictive ban on LGBT+ people serving in the military, he was stripped of his medals and position. He recalled a man approaching him and cutting the medal off his uniform when the court martial was completed.

Speaking to BBC, Ousalice said, “I should have always been judged on the basis of my exceptional service and not my sexuality. History has shown us that a person’s sexuality has no bearing on how they perform in times of conflict. So many LGBT people were forced out of their wonderful careers and the consequences were devastating.”

Following his discharge from military service, Ousalice was left unemployed and had to scavenge for potatoes at a local farm to feed himself. He said, ‘The Navy wasn’t just my job, it was my life. But to do it I had to hide another important part of me, which I did because I loved the navy life so much I didn’t want to give it up. But I shouldn’t have been asked to choose.”

Ousalice further stated, “I was made to feel like I was disgusting and in the end I was hounded out on some trumped up charges, and told that because I was attracted to men my 18 years of service counted for nothing.”

The human rights group Liberty represented Ousalice after the return of his medal was initially refused. Head of legal casework and his lawyer, Emma Norton, said, “The MoD discriminated horribly against LGBT members of the armed forces for decades. They subjected people to degrading and intrusive investigations into their private lives, destroying careers and damaging lives.”

After a court settlement, the MoD has issued an apology to Ousalice and returned his medal. An MoD spokesperson stated, “Back in 1993, because of his sexuality, Mr Ousalice was treated in a way that would not be acceptable today and for that we apologise. We accept our policy in respect of serving homosexuals in the military was wrong, discriminatory and unjust to the individuals involved.”

In 2000, laws forbidding LGBT+ people to serve in the military were changed, however there are still many who deal with the impact of this policy. It is believed that the MoD is developing a scheme to return other medals to veterans who were stripped of them in similar situations. 

Ousalice has served 18 years in the Navy, working as a radio operator in the Falklands War and undertaking six tours of Northern Ireland. The war veteran will receive his medal during a ceremony at a later date. He said, “I also want other LGBT veterans to know they’re not alone, and that we all deserve the same recognition.”

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