(Photo: AP Photo/Courtesy Gary Stein)
I’m not in the military, but I do know that Marines are expected to proudly serve at the pleasure of the commander-in-chief. I know that Marines are discouraged from speaking out about personal political positions and that bad-mouthing the President is definitely frowned upon. So if I know this and I’m clearly not an expert on every military precept or rule of decorum, why didn’t Marine Sgt. Gary Stein expect to be in trouble after his blatant condemnation of the president and defense secretary?
The Marine Corps notified Stein that he’d broken the rules based on statements made on his Facebook page called, “Armed Forces Tea Party.” On it, Stein reportedly said he wouldn’t follow orders from the president that he feels are unlawful. The site even contains a plea for people to buy bumper stickers that read “NObama 2012” to raise money for the group and Stein.
It should have been no surprise when Stein’s commanding officer launched a preliminary investigation which may lead to his discharge.
So why, then, did Stein reportedly say, “I’ve done nothing wrong. I’ve only stated what our oath states that I will defend the constitution and that I will not follow unlawful orders. If that’s a crime, what is America coming to?”
My question is the same. What is the country coming to if a Marine who has taken a sworn Oath of Enlistment can’t demonstrate the utmost in loyalty and respect to those at the top of the chain of command?
Think of all of the people in public service who are routinely asked to follow the instructions of leaders they may disagree with philosophically. But the difference is that they fall in line out of respect for the greater good, or a cause that’s bigger than their personal feelings.
The legendary World War II group of African-American pilots known as theTuskegee Airmen valiantly and heroically served — even though the commander-in-chief they were charged to serve continued racially oppressive Jim Crow laws. I’m sure many of them wanted to speak out, but they didn’t because they had respect for their duty, their leaders and their country.
It appears that respect is the missing ingredient in Sgt. Stein’s case. He, for whatever reason, feels empowered to so brazenly cross the line and partake in behavior he had to think was, at minimum, questionable.
Depending on the outcome of the Marine Corps’s investigation, Stein could see his rank lowered to lance corporal. But in my book, because of his actions, he has already been demoted, unfit to serve and defend and protect the interests of the United States.
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