Loose Lips Sink Ships... and Careers
Recently a Marine who was critical of the president on a Facebook page got discharged from the military under “other than honorable conditions." As an active duty military member many of your rights that you enjoyed as a civilian are somewhat curbed. In the current political environment the country is as divided as it has ever been since the Civil War, which creates opportunity for problems. If you are an active duty military member you would be well served to tread lightly in the realm political speech. Included below are a few pointers to maintain an active political role and still stay out of trouble.
1. Political Contributions:
As an active duty military member you are strictly prohibited from speech that favors one political party but, you can vote with your wallet. Making political contributions to politicians who support your values is a great way to express your feelings while keeping your “soup cooler” closed. Ron Paul recently touted his disproportionately large amounts of contributions from active duty personnel and don’t for one moment think it went unnoticed. Besides the fact that political contributions are easy to make, odds are a professional politician will be able to express principles you support better than anyone.
2. Volunteer time:
You are barred from working on a political campaign as an uniformed person but that doesn’t stop you from contributing to a non-campaigns activity that supports you views. Habitat for Humanity would gladly use your skilled hands in building homes for those in need or the time you spend at the USO also makes a political statement without saying anything political. Capable persons who are willing to volunteer time can accomplish more than dozens of people sitting around debating along political lines.
3. Attend Conventions:
You won’t be able to volunteer time to your favorite politicians but you can certainly attend political conventions so long as you leave your uniform at home. Attending campaign conventions will help you network with like-minded individuals and give you greater perspective on the political process. Avoid making any statements that could be construed the wrong way and certainly make no official statements on behalf of the candidate or your organization.
4. Funny Military Shirts:
The political statement of military T-shirts has been around as long as I can remember just don’t do it on duty. Shirts, clothing and bumper stickers that support principles are okay so long as they do not favor one political party candidate or partisan issue. You can support a women’s choice or the right to life as plain as day when off duty without violating UCMJ so long as you do not cause disorder or insubordination in doing so.
5. Use Political Signs:
Placing political signs on your lawn is acceptable political discourse though it is generally not allowed on a military base. When in doubt your civilian spouse has the right to place a political sign in your front yard that can be helpful unless you are in a “mixed” marriage.
Political speech is a subjective issue and the suggestion is to err on the side of caution. As an active duty person you maintain the right to some political speech but also have a higher duty to general order of the nation as a whole, so any political speech you make must be thoughtful, respectful and should in no way bring dishonor on yourself, your unit or the United States of America.