Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Marine Sgt. Gary Stein Given Other-Than-Honorable Discharge For Criticizing Barack Obama On Facebook; Tainted Discharge Is Vindictive

On April 25th, 2012, the U.S. Marine Corps announced that Sgt. Gary Stein will be demoted to lance corporal and be given an other-than-honorable discharge for violating Pentagon policy limiting speech of service members. Brig. Gen. Daniel Yoo accepted the unanimous recommendation of an Administrative Separation Board at Camp Pendleton that Sgt. Stein be dismissed for making disparaging comments about the commander-in-chief that were disruptive to good order and discipline and violated military law. The discharge will mean he could lose almost all benefits, although the Department of Veterans Affairs can make its own determination. The 26-year-old Stein, who was assigned to the Marine Corps Recruiting Depot (MCRD) in San Diego as a weather forecaster, was a veteran of nearly 10 years service and was intending to re-enlist at the expiration of his current term. Numerous media links embedded throughout the post.

Briefly, there are five types of characterized discharges from the military. Three of them are administrative; Honorable, General, and Other Than Honorable (OTH). Other Than Honorable was once known as Undesirable. The other two are punitive: Bad Conduct and Dishonorable.

The sequence of events began when Sgt. Stein started a Facebook page called Armed Forces Tea Party in November 2010 to encourage fellow service members to exercise their free speech rights. But Stein got into trouble when he posted statements saying that he would not follow unlawful orders from Obama. Another Marine reported the comments, and Stein’s commander ordered an investigation. Investigators concluded that Stein violated the Pentagon policy barring service members from engaging in political activities, and recommended his separation from the Corps.

During his administrative separation board hearing on April 5th, 2012, Stein argued that his statement about Obama was part of an online debate about NATO allowing U.S. troops to be tried for the Quran burnings in Afghanistan. He further explained that within that context, he was simply stating that he would not follow orders from the president if those orders included detaining U.S. citizens, disarming them or doing anything else that he believes would violate their constitutional rights. But prosecutors submitted screen grabs of Stein's postings, which included the image of Obama on the "Jackass" movie poster. Stein also superimposed Obama's image on a poster for "The Incredibles" movie that he changed to "The Horribles". Stein also offered bumper stickers printed with "NOBAMA 2012" for sale on the Facebook page.

Despite the fact that Stein received a groundswell of public support, to include heavyweight endorsements from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), a former Marine who wrote a letter to Stein’s commanding officer stating the sergeant should not face dismissal for an opinion shared by a majority of Marines, the board, comprised of a lieutenant colonel, a major and a sergeant-major, agreed that Stein violated the Pentagon policy barring service members from engaging in political activities, and decided he should be dismissed from the Marine Corps. Sgt. Stein then exercised his right to appeal the board's decision to the commanding general at MCRD San Diego. On April 25th, the general's concurrence was announced. It will take at least a week for the administrative paperwork to be completed.

Stein had also appealed to a federal judge to block the discharge proceedings, contending that during the 17-month period from November 2010 through March 1, neither his commanding officer nor any other officer tried to restrict his Facebook activities. He also argued that he was not told that his Facebook activities prejudiced order and discipline, and claimed his free speech rights were violated. But U.S. District Judge Marilyn Huff blocked the appeal, ruling that the military has the right to respond to Stein's online comments, and pointed out that service members have had their speech limited since the Civil War, especially if their comments are believed to disrupt good order and discipline. Stein's lawyers have said they will appeal Judge Huff's ruling to the 9th Circuit.

Gary Stein's Response: He expressed disappointment with the decision, saying "I love the Marine Corps, I love my job. I wish it wouldn't have gone this way. I'm having a hard time seeing how 15 words on Facebook could have ruined my nine-year career". Gary Kreep, an attorney for Stein, said he would pursue administrative appeals within the Marine Corps but anticipates the effort will be denied. He said he planned to file an amended complaint in federal court.

Analysis: I don't believe that Stein's words alone got him into trouble. He crossed the line when he started posting caricatures of Barack Obama online. These caricatures expressed contempt for the titular Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. As an NCO, Sgt. Stein wasn't merely responsible for personal compliance, but for also ENFORCING compliance among subordinates. Thus a higher standard is warranted. Furthermore, there is no such thing as an REMF in the Marine Corps; any Marine can expect to be assigned to a combat billet at any time.

Consequently, as a veteran, I must very reluctantly endorse the discharge of Sgt. Stein. However, making it Other Than Honorable is vindictive; Sgt. Stein committed no crime against anyone's person or property. An administrative separation with an honorable discharge would have been sufficient punishment.

General Public Reaction: As expressed in the form of public comments from various media sources. Many who are supportive of Stein's politics also agree with the discharge, particularly those who served:

awakeandwatching Posted on April 25, 2012 at 3:31pm (The Blaze):
Being a former Marine Sgt. I know how it is trying to serve while really not liking our current POTUS. That is why when my enlistement was up at the end of 2009 I simply did not re-enlist. He knew very well that it was against regulations to publicly speak out against the POTUS. I will give him credit for standing his ground and doing what he believed is right!

mils Posted on April 25, 2012 at 3:34pm (The Blaze):
he knew going in what the rules of the corps are..

they amount to no derogatory remarks or actions against country, C/C, you may not like the president, but he is the CC and he has NOT asked you to do somehting illegal..

i would never blindly follw obama, but i would also not post comments while still in the marines..

Master.Debater Posted on April 25, 2012 at 3:13pm (The Blaze):
Obama deserves to be criticized and ridiculed. However, the President IS the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and there exists a direct Chain of Command between him and the Sgt. Take your feelings about the Great Leader out of the equation for a moment and consider whether you still think it’s a good idea to have subordinates criticizing their commanders on Facebook or any other social media?

Chris Dalton April 25th 11:50 A.M. (L.A. Times)
I am a staunch supporter of personal liberties but he is a Marine. As a vet I can tell you that all service men and women know that they do not have freedom of anything while serving. He is not governed by just our constitution but the Uniform Code of Military Justice. What he said would be treated the same way if he had pointed it at his commanding officer. As a federal worker, you do not have to abide by the UCMJ where Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen do. I personally think the ruling is crazy but his actions did violate the UCMJ.


  1. Send him and all of the tea baggers to Berlin of the 1930's and early 40's. They're closer to Joseph Goebels and the Gestapo then they are to Jesus Christ.

  2. Obvious troll comment above. You know nothing about the Gestapo or the 1930s. Perhaps you so-called "99 percenters" should have actually studied in school.

  3. What section of the"UCMJ" did he violate?

  4. Anonymous 8:56 A.M: None of the media sources I've seen specifies which section. Most likely Sgt. Stein violated Article 92, Failure to Obey Order or Regulation. This means he either was given an order to stop posting on his Facebook account and refused, or he disobeyed a DoD or Marine Corps regulation which governs how enlisted can participate in politics while in service.

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