published Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Some still don't get it

Maybe it has to happen every year or two. At least in wartime. Some sailor, soldier or Marine decides to challenge the president of the United States, publicly, on some issue or other, and has to be disciplined. From time to time it may even be a general. (See MacArthur, Douglas.)

Last time this came up -- was it 2010? -- it was a lieutenant colonel, and a doctor to boot, who declined to deploy to Afghanistan. The now decidedly former Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin theorized in his wisdom -- clearly his degree was in medicine, not political science or military law -- that the commander-in-chief's birth certificate wasn't valid, so neither was his presidency. So he wouldn't follow a direct order.

OK. The colonel was deployed to prison instead. Fair enough, legal enough, necessary enough.

Generals and colonels have to follow orders, too, just as they expect their orders to be followed by majors and sergeants. The country can't have its military deciding, from trooper to trooper, whether to follow orders and deploy when those orders are cut. No matter what a grunt might think about war, any war, a member of the armed services is expected, should be expected, to have one response when called on by the president of the United States to take his post: Yes, sir.

When our all-volunteer force puts on the uniform, each trooper knows the drill, and the deal: You lose some rights. You don't have the First Amendment right to speak your mind when standing at attention in formation. You don't have the right to avoid Unreasonable Searches and Seizures when your drill sergeant starts emptying your sock drawer and throwing the contents across the room. And if the MREs they give you in the field don't violate the Eighth Amendment's guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment, what does? There's no appeal in this man's army. A soldier is a soldier. A Marine is a Marine. Twenty-four-seven. Just as a doctor is always a doctor. Or a judge a judge, on the bench or off. Some of us are always on duty. And are expected to act like it.

The latest to learn this lesson that every recruit should've learned (before he even signed up) is one Gary Stein, a 26-year-old Marine. A military board of review has recommended that he be dismissed from the service with an Other Than Honorable discharge.

What'd he do? Or rather not do. For starters, he seems to be still another birther. And a public one at that. Because he posted stuff on the Internet questioning President Obama's birth certificate. He then went to Facebook -- ah, the ubiquitous, always treacherous, all-revealing Facebook! -- and posted a claim that the president is a liar. For bad measure, he added that his commander-in-chief is just the kind of Domestic Enemy that the military's oath mentions when those who take it swear to protect the Constitution of the United States.

Oh, dear.

It's one thing to think such things. The mind is, and always should be, free. It's another foolish, insubordinate thing to say it. It crosses a clear line when you say it publicly -- on the Internet, yet.

That's grounds for dismissal. And should be.

This being America, the sergeant has lawyered up. And one of his attorneys told the press: "I don't think any law was violated by Gary Stein. The reason we have this reticence in the military to get engaged in politics is that we were afraid a long time ago of military dictatorship. We are so far from that in suggesting that on a private Facebook page, you can't say something about politics."

Lordy, lordy, where to start? How about here: A private Facebook page?

If that Facebook page was private, or shielded, or whatever the term, how did the authorities find out about it? Did somebody copy the message? Or like it or friend it or share it? There are a million ways to share incriminating or just embarrassing stuff once somebody posts it online. Welcome to the age of the Internet, counselor. Surely you've heard of it.

This case is just why we have the sort of thing that's generally called Conduct Unbecoming. You don't have to break a specific law to be given your walking papers by the U.S. military. There's no spelling out every type of insubordination in a code of law. But surely you can tell it when you see it, especially on Facebook. The consequence is dismissal. To use a phrase a lawyer might recognize, it's called dismissal at will.

Unfortunately, Sgt. Stein's lawyers weren't the only ones heard from. There was Sgt. Stein himself:

"The allegations drummed up against me are no more than an agenda by the Marine Corps to use me as an example. If I am guilty of anything it would be that I am American, a freedom-loving conservative, hell-bent on defending the Constitution and preserving America's greatness."

Nice speech. Run for office. But not in uniform.

Marine (for now), you may be an example, all right, but not a good one. The brass would be well-advised to use your case as a Teachable Moment in its orientation sessions. Yes, the Marine Corps may very well have an agenda when it comes to discouraging those in its ranks from insulting its commander-in-chief, or anybody else in the chain of command. It better.

This is called military discipline. And the United States Marine Corps has a reputation for being the best disciplined of all the branches. First in, last out, Halls of Montezuma, Shores of Tripoli, and above all Semper Fi. Which is why one Gary Stein soon may no longer be a Marine.

Want to insult the commander-in-chief and president of the United States? Fine. It's every American's right and, from time to time, maybe even habit.

Just do it in civvies.


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EaTn said...

Our country has lost its manners and respect for others. It's common courtesy to respect certain national positions, whether you respect the holder of the position or not. The military is one place you don't want this respect to disintegrate and the Sgt. was clearly out of line. In times past he would have been imprisoned for publicly criticizing his Commander in Chief, so being kicked out is like a slap on the wrist.

April 26, 2012 at 7:06 a.m.
jesse said...

"never reason why,just do or die!"

( at least until you get discharged!)

April 26, 2012 at 10:10 a.m.
Plato said...

As a vet I agree 100% with this piece. It matters not of it's George W. Bush or Barack Obama, he's the CIC - end of discussion.

Spot on.

April 26, 2012 at 11:07 a.m.
Lr103 said...

It's surprising to read this piece from the right side of TFP. Usually they use any and every situation to bash to president. Dude had better be glad he's in 21ST century America and not the 19TH or earlier to mid 20TH century. He could have been taken before a firing squad, and so too that doctor who refused deployment.

April 26, 2012 at 3:53 p.m.

Hey East you can start at the very top when you talk about showing a lack a respect. I guess everyone has forgot how Obama publicly called out the Supreme Court Justices when they voted in favor of allowing super-pac money to be contributed to the GOP party. It was fine as long as unions could donate any amount and buy who they wanted in office but not when the playing field was leveled. It is a shame a person can put his life on the line to defend the freedom of speech but is not allowed to practice it.

April 26, 2012 at 4:06 p.m.
joneses said...

The soldier that ridiculed obastard is indicative of what military personnel actually think of obastard. This is just the beginning and if obastard is reelected many in the military will turn against this communist. The military will not fight for this country to become a communist nation they will fight obastard and his communist followers.

April 27, 2012 at 7:10 a.m.
Rickaroo said...

Joneses, as for how most members of the military really feel about Obama I don't have a clue. But there is/was no president who deserves more censure and disrespect from soldiers than G.W. Bush, who stated unequivocally that he was FOR U.S. involvement in Vietnam, but rather than fight he chose to run and take cover in the National Guard. Everyone who was alive and old enough to know what was going on then knows that the National Guard, outside of an actual deferment, was the best way to get out of going to Vietnam. National Guardsmen at that time were not engaged in the conflict.

I think that anyone who chose not to serve deserves respect because history has proven that that war was a pointless and unnecessary act of aggression, waged against a country that simply wanted to decide its own fate as to how to govern itself. There was plenty of evidence at the time that such was the case and that it was a war of political folly. The massive protests finally helped to bring that shameful debacle to an end. Even more so than Iraq, it was a war in which the enemy could not be distinguished from the general populace and it became necessary for American soldiers to adopt a kill-or-be-killed attitude and kill many innocent men, women,and children in order to stay alive.

Whether a person decided to serve then was a matter of conscience, and respect should be shown to anyone who took a moral stand for their beliefs, either way. But Bush couldn't even take a stand. If he was indeed FOR the war, he should have been willing to fight in it, not run for cover in the N.G. Hell, he even had to rely on his daddy's influence to get him in. And once in, he didn't even have the decency to serve his tour of duty admirably. He was AWOL half the time.

So whatever feelings of disrespect soldiers today might feel for Obama, they should not forget what a wuss and a wimp Bush was and how he lacked the courage and integrity to even take a stand.

BTW, your over-use of the word "communist" is laughable. Do you honestly think anyone takes you seriously, the way you throw that word around so often? Is it possible for you to say anything at all without injecting that word into your conversation? That seems to be how you and so many of the other tea-bagging righties who post here see the world: everything is either communist or anti-communist. I almost feel sorry for you. Must be a miserable way to go through life.

April 27, 2012 at 10:43 a.m.
dao1980 said...

I bet joneses has a commie flag tacked up on the wall in his garage.

April 27, 2012 at 11:33 a.m.
hambone said...

From these post it is not hard to tell those that are veterans.

April 27, 2012 at 3:55 p.m.
lightkeeper said...
<p>@dao1980.....Joneses got a commie and dixie flag tacked somewhere, but its not on the wall, I think its shoved up you know where!

April 27, 2012 at 8:01 p.m.
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