His fate's been in limbo for nearly three weeks, but on Wednesday, Sgt. Gary Stein was discharged from the Marines without honor for making fun of the president on Facebook. It seems like it took the corps a long time to decide to go along with an April 6 recommendation by its administrative board, which said Stein should go. But then, his case is quite sensitive. The ACLU backed Stein's First Amendment right to criticize whoever he wants, but in the end it was the fact that he violated the oath he swore when he joined the Marines that did Stein in.
As Stars and Stripes pointed out in March, members of the military swear oaths to "obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me." On Facebook, Stein wrote: "As an active duty Marine I say 'screw Obama' and I will not follow orders from him." That would appear to violate the oath. The Marines thought so, too.
Stein also apparently superimposed a picture of President Barack Obama on a poster for the movie Jackass. As CBS pointed out earlier this month, "the military has had a policy since the Civil War limiting the free speech of service members, including criticism of the commander in chief."
And as the Associated Press pointed out on Wednesday, a federal judge had already blocked Stein's request to block the proceedings against him. "U.S. District Judge Marilyn Huff ruled then that the military has the right to respond to Stein's online comments in a case that has called into question the Pentagon's policies regarding social media and the limits regarding the speech of active duty military personnel."
Now that he's being discharged "other than honorably," Stein, a 10-year veteran, likely will not be eligible for most of his benefits, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. But the military law page at Lawyers.com notes that the VA "will examine the circumstances of your OTH discharge to determine whether you're eligible or not."*
*Correction: An earlier version of this story indicated that veterans "usually" come away with benefits such as health care and pension. That was inaccurate. The standard length of service to qualify for most benefits is 20 years.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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