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A military discharge occurs when any member of any branch of the armed forces is released from their duties.
Many military discharges are given fairly routinely when a person’s military contract expires and they decide to leave the service or not seek promotion. These types of discharges are known as an “honorable” discharge and the person’s benefits and service record are given out in accordance with their contract.
Honorable discharges also include situations where a term of service ends at the order of a judge or court, a conflict ends and the unit is relieved from duty, or if someone has been denied a promotion two times in a row (this last occurrence tends to vary between the different branches).
Other special circumstances may also end in an honorable discharge. One type of special circumstance is a discharge due to an infraction of the “don’t ask don’t tell” laws enacted in the 1990s. Under these laws it is illegal for the armed forces to fire someone for being a homosexual or lesbian unless they divulge the information about their sexual preferences openly. The “don’t ask don’t tell” discharge is given as an honorable discharge.