This photo of an individual wearing what appears to be the uniform of a chief gunner’s mate made the Internet rounds over the weekend, inciting heated discussions and thousands of cumulative comments on whether it’s appropriate to make a political statement while in uniform.
It also appeared alongside several other photos of individuals wearing what appear to be U.S. military uniforms in a message left at Marines.com by hackers (image here). The Syrian Electronic Army claimed responsibility for the Monday attack, but the image of the chief’s uniform appeared online days earlier, separate from the SEA message.
Defense Department Directive 1344.10 lays out a host of regulations for active-duty service members and their political opinions. While social media and foreign policy aren’t specifically addressed, there are plenty of limits placed on displaying signs, writing letters to the editor or participating in a political broadcast either while in uniform or as a representative of the armed forces.
The rant inspired some copycats, including this “soldier” to the right.
This question came up just last year, when Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Christopher Millen posed on his Tumblr site with a sign praising Obamacare and denigrating Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Millen showed his face and signed his banner, but he didn’t face any punishment. In this latest case, it remains to be seen whether the individual is a) a sailor, b) can be identified, and c) faces any repercussions.
In addition to his E-7 rank, it appears he’s in surface warfare and has at least one deployment during the first Gulf War under his belt.
Commenters came down mostly against the sailor, although some argued that his hidden face and his First Amendment rights should trump any military laws.
And of course, the internet responded in kind.
What do you think? Does it make a difference that he doesn’t identify himself? Should troops be able to express their opinions in general?