All Things Soldier: A Military Mess Up In The Midst Of A Curious Convention

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

This past week was the Democratic National Convention, and there were many firsts. It was the first time that the lion’s share of the festivities had been pre-recorded. That included a video endorsement of delegates from each of the 50 states and 7 territories, with a brief statement as to why Joe Biden was the choice of the party for president. While there were beautiful backdrops for each speaker, when it came to the statement from the delegates from American Samoa, there was trouble in paradise. Standing behind the two chief “spokesfolk” were two soldiers in uniform, complete with mask. They said nothing, but thankfully it didn’t take but a moment for ex-military people watching the broadcast to point out on social media that the soldiers in the video were in complete violation of DOD regulations that are hammered into every Coastie, Marine, Sailor, Soldier and Airman beginning in boot camp.

Briefly stated, active duty troops are NEVER allowed to campaign while in uniform, period. They can go to rallies and, of course, they can vote; they can make campaign contributions, but their uniform cannot be associated with any political party because they put their lives on the line to protect ALL political parties. The following is a breakdown of the DOD regulation that discusses what is allowed:

“As a matter of long-standing policy, military service members and federal employees acting in their official capacity may not engage in activities that associate the DOD with any partisan political campaign or elections, candidate, cause or issue,” said the DOD.

“Under DOD Directive 1344.10, members of the armed forces who are on active duty are permitted to express their personal opinions on political candidates, make a monetary contribution to a campaign, sign a petition to place a candidate’s name on the ballot, and attend a political event as a spectator.

“Members on active duty may not participate in partisan activities such as soliciting or engaging in partisan fundraiser activities, serving as the sponsor of a partisan club, or speaking before a partisan gathering,” the DOD added.
“In addition, all military members, including National Guard and Reserve forces, are prohibited from wearing military uniforms at political campaign events.” BINGO!

Now, I am going to take a slightly different tack than maybe others will because I had the privilege of living in Iraq amongst service members during the 2004 presidential election. The contenders for CNC were George W. Bush and John Kerry, and I can assure you that great effort was made on the part of the DOD to see to it that everyone knew what was expected of them and why. We had discussions, for sure, and I was not in uniform, but I needed to be careful to respect the position of those around me. So, in a word, without a word, these two members of the military really messed up. My take on it is not so much that they were used or manipulated, which they may have been, but they were not victims. If 2020 is anything like 2004, they simply knew better. If that’s true, why they did it anyway is beyond me, and I hope that their COs have the wisdom to deal with them firmly and well.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner