There has been a stir recently caused by this Marine from the IRR that has exercised the right to free speech in participating in demonstrations in Washington. He was wearing a uniform with patches removed and voiced his opposition to the war. He was contacted by the Marines as a result and informed that he may have violated a rule prohibiting troops from wearing uniforms without authorization. Following that the Marine voiced his objection to the fact that he was contacted by the Marines on the matter in terms which gained him additional charges. There are several matters here - let me sort some of them out
I can buy the exact uniform and patches that marine wore on that day at any of a thousand military surplus stores. Look anywhere and you'll find the wear of camouflage is an urban clothing item - why is it an issue here?
The Marine assigned to the IRR receives no pay, no benefits and does not report regularly to any chain of command. He is subject to recall to active duty, but won't get a nickel to maintain uniforms, health care is not offered, and in fact from all outward appearances, he is essentially a civilian.
Our Forefathers granted all freedom of Speech in the constitution - the military establishment practicing a censure under the guise of military law and order in this case is very selective when Major Generals identified by rank, service affiliation and former assignments are broadcasting disagreement on the airwaves on a regular basis with impunity.
I don't agree with this Marine's sentiment in protest, but I was impressed with the guts and thought in his letter to the Marine Corp. Simply put, this Marine - no longer materially participating in organized military voiced his opposition to the Iraq War. Frankly the action to attempt to permanently stain this marine's record with a change in discharge is wholly inappropriate in that he served and is no longer on the active roles. His method of responding did result in inappropriate remarks to an officer - and wasn't necessary to make the point - but it would not have been precipitated except for a charge leveled for the sake of Marine Corp decorum. The effort by the Marines here is indicative of continued efforts to muzzle dissention and opinion from the ranks. Even the VFW has seen the issue as one for response urging the military to
"exercise a little common sense" and call off its investigation of a group of Iraq war veterans who wore their uniforms during anti-war protests.
"Trying to hush up and punish fellow Americans for exercising the same democratic right we're trying to instill in Iraq is not what we're all about,"
The Marines claim that the protest was a political event, at which personnel are not allowed to wear their uniforms without authorization. In closing arguments, Marine Capt. Jeremy Sibert said that military personnel can be punished if their civilian behavior "directly affects the performance of military duties and is service-related." He said Kokesh's actions could affect how people view the Marine Corps and discourage recruits. I'm struck by the expanse of actions already done by senior military officers that are retired that could fit this description - and frankly now that the Marines have chosen to prosecute this IRR soldier - couldn't Capt Sibert be accused of doing the same thing?