Discharged tea party Marine says military publication made example of him
Two months after former Marine sergeant Gary Stein was discharged from the service for founding the Armed Forces tea Party Facebook group and making strong political statements, he thought the flurry of publicity surrounding his disgrace was finally over. Not so, he discovered last week.
Stein was briefly the unexpected star of a public affairs article informing troops how they could stay “social media savvy during the election season,” appearing in the lead sentence as an example of what not to do.
“Basically what it says is, ‘don’t be Gary Stein,’” he told Human Events. “It just went through everything that you cannot do as a service member. It was basically a scare tactic.”
Stein acknowledges that his Facebook comments, particularly negative ones directed at President Barack Obama, were sometimes overly forceful, though groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and U.S. Justice Foundation maintain he was still within his First Amendment rights to make them. But he said it hurt that the Corps would direct more public attention to the incident.
“Way to stick their entire finger in the wound, you know?” he said.
What rankled more, Stein said, was the Defense Department’s decision this month to allow active-duty troops to march in uniform at San Diego’s famous gay pride parade in response to pressure from organizers, an exception to the military’s rule prohibiting service members from wearing uniforms while participating in political advocacy activities. The move seems to be part of a trend of military conciliation toward gay advocacy groups following the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, also evidenced by a sponsored gay pride celebration at the Pentagon in June.
“It just seems like the Obama Defense Department is caving to these liberal viewpoints,” Stein said.“I have no problem with homosexual service members, but it’s a double standard” with regard to political activity, he said.
The article mentioning Stein by name was removed from the Web following an inquiry into the matter by Marine Corps Times reporters last week.
Mike Barton, deputy director of Public Affairs at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point N.C., where the piece originated, said it was pulled after the office learned that Stein was still appealing his discharge with a lawsuit filed in federal court.
“We felt that out of respect for the legal process, it would be inappropriate to use his information during that appeal,” Barton said in an email.
“ … Our article’s author, unaware that the case was in appeal, assumed that Stein would have no issue with a brief mention of his case since he was openly discussing it with national media.”
A replacement article, now in publication, uses no specific examples but informs troops they are not to advocate for or against any party, candidate, or cause, even on Facebook discussion forums.
Meanwhile, Stein said he has realized one of his goals for life after the military, hosting an online radio show with a listenership of about 3,000 every Thursday night. A licensed real estate agent who signed with a large company last week, Stein said he is considering a fall run for city council in Murrieta, Calif. Meanwhile, his federal appeal — he is suing for pay and benefits lost through his early discharge — is moving forward slowly but surely.
“I’m just waiting for my day in court,” he said.