Staff Sergeant Gary Stein will get an other than honorable discharge and lose most of his benefits for violating the policies of the United States Marine Corp. Mr. Stein is being discharged for his high profile and public criticism of his boss, President Barack Obama, on Facebook. Mr. Stein used his Facebook page to express his contempt for his commander in chief with statements like “screw Obama” and openly admitting that he would refuse an order from the President and images that went so far as to compare Mr. Obama to a jackass. He later amended his statement to say that he wouldn’t follow an unlawful order of the President. But his contempt was still very much evident.
The Marines Corp say that Mr. Stein was repeatedly warned about his posts. While troops are encouraged to carry out their obligations of citizenship and are allowed to express their personal opinion on political issues and candidates and issues, they cannot take part in any political activities as official representatives of the military. Mr. Stein included a disclaimer on his posts that said that what people read was his personal opinion and not the opinion of the Marine Corp. So in all fairness he was doing nothing more than exercising his constitutionally protected freedom of speech. So Mr. Stein was able to avoid a court martial. But unfortunately for him, while freedom of speech meant that he wouldn’t have to face time in jail, it doesn’t mean immunity from any reprisals for expressing his rage of his employer.
After serving the Marine Corp for more than nine years, Mr. Stein will get an other than honorable discharge and lose most of the benefits that come with military service. Mr. Stein said he loved being a Marine and enjoyed his career as a military meteorologist. He just didn’t love it enough to keep his opinion in check and express his displeasure with Mr. Obama in a more respectful manner. He claims that all he was doing was expressing his freedom of speech. But he forgot that the military also has its own right to express its freedom of speech.
What better way for the military to let the world know that it doesn’t care for rather over the top dissention of the commander in chief than to fire people who engage in such activity? And it’s not like Mr. Stein was just yanked out of his uniform the first time somebody caught wind of his expression. He was warned and he was warned repeatedly. He made the choice to continue down a path that would pretty much guarantee a confrontation.
Mr. Stein named his Facebook page, Armed Forces Tea Party. While it’s not clear if he was an official member of the tea party, he appears to have made a connection nevertheless. He probably felt that his affiliation with an organization so vociferous in its opposition to Mr. Obama would give him ample protection to make the suggestion that Mr. Obama was a jackass. The only problem was that most of the people in the tea party who carried signs saying that Mr. Obama was a lying African and should go back to Kenya didn’t work for Mr. Obama. Mr. Stein did. He knew that he was treading in thin ice and yet he continued to press forward. It was inevitable that the amount of force he was using to push the issue would eventually meet sufficient opposing force that would make him regret his actions.
I have never served in the Marine Corp so I cannot speak from experience or with inside knowledge, but I do believe that it’s a given that the chain of command is highly valued and protected by every branch of the military. People who serve and openly challenge their superiors do so at their own peril. It doesn’t matter if an individual’s actions were unintentional or purposeful the military has an obligation to keep discipline and order. Allowing a subordinate to undermine respect for their superiors cannot be good for the smooth operation of organizations charged with the protection of our national security. Any challenge to discipline and order should be met with enough corrective action to discourage similar behavior in the future.
Mr. Stein believes he is being made an example to others. I couldn’t agree more. Other people in military service should think twice before they openly criticize any of their superiors with contempt and loathing, let alone the President. Besides it’s only fair. Mr. Stein made Mr. Obama an example of his disrespect. It wasn’t like Mr. Obama had a history of making unlawful or unreasonable orders to the military. What prompted him to suddenly voice his need to hold Mr. Obama to a standard that he didn’t hold for Mr. Obama’s predecessor President George Bush Jr.?
All things considered it looks like Mr. Stein brought his premature discharge on himself. Now he wants to cry foul and talk about regretting his choices. Maybe he’s learned from his ordeal. Too bad the price of learning was so high. He should look at the bright side now. Once his termination is complete, he will be free to exercise his freedom of speech without the fear of losing his job that he already lost. Isn’t that what he wanted, at least more than he wanted his career.