When Joseph Patton joined the Navy in 1955, he had to serve in silence. At the time, gay, lesbian, and bisexual people could not be open while in the military. 

Decades later, at the age of 81, Joseph recorded for StoryCorps from his home in Santa Monica, California, where he spoke about his service and how he was eventually kicked out of the Navy due to the assumption that he was “homosexual.”

In the 1970s, Joseph fought to get his undesirable discharge upgraded to honorable, which then allowed him to receive benefits for his service.

Joseph died in 2020. He was 83 years old.

Top Photo: Joseph Patton, who recorded in Santa Monica, California with StoryCorps in 2019. Photo by Jud Esty-Kendall.
Bottom Photo: Joseph Patton in the mid-1950s, while serving in the US Navy. Photo courtesy of Joseph Patton.

Originally aired December 26, 2020, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.