COMMENTARY | The Huffington Post reports that on April 6, a military board has recommended Marine sergeant Gary Stein should be completely relieved of his military duties. The military board wants Stein to be dismissed from the military with other-than-honorable discharge, which means he could never enter a military base again. This all comes from the fact that Stein openly criticized President Barack Obama on his Facebook page, after being told previously to take similar posts down. Stein also used social media websites to criticize the military missions, and said he would disobey orders that he did not agree with. As a citizen concerned with freedom of speech, here is why this decision by the military board was the right call.
The biggest issue with what Stein did was the fact that when you are in the military, you are not supposed to bring your own political views into the equation. As commander-in-chief, Obama should have the respect of the military, and the military should follow all orders he gives, even if someone in particular does not agree with that decision. The Pentagon has a policy in place, which says that military members have limited freedom of speech, since they are serving the country. I think freedom of speech is important for all American citizens, but you still need to obey the commands given to you if you are in the military, and it is just a rule you need to live with.
I do think that it is a little harsh that Stein would be dismissed through other-than-honorable discharge, since he has served in the military for nine years, and did not technically break any laws. Stein needs to be held accountable for his actions, but he should also be recognized for the good work he has done in his military career, and should not have a tarnished legacy just over some pictures and Facebook posts. Stein would also be ineligible for any benefits that he has accrued, which I believe is totally out of line. Stein should receive the benefits he is eligible for, because he worked hard for those benefits, and has paid his dues in order to obtain the benefits. I think taking away his clearance for six months is a better punishment, and would get the point across without totally damaging his military career.
I think that this whole social media aspect is fairly new territory, and this recommendation really sets a new precedent in the military. Facebook and Twitter all still relatively new, so maybe the military can focus on making everyone aware of the topics that should not be talked about on these websites. I think this should be considered a teachable moment for the military, and the military should not just kick Stein to the curb like he is a terrorist or criminal. Stein is being made an example of, but the punishment does not fit the crime of posting anti-Obama material on Facebook.