Okay, I plead guilty.
Don't yawn as if you don't care. Bear with me.
Confession is good for the soul and mine needs some help, so hear me
I have misused my old military uniform. Yes I have.
When I got out of active duty in the U.S. Army back in
June of 1956, I kept my old uniforms andhere it comescontinued to
wear them at inappropriate times.
Not my dress uniform. I donated it to a theatre costume
department on a campus where I often hung out.
But my fatigues I kept. And I continued to wear them for
about four more decades. The tops still had my name tag above the
shirt pocket, still had my Specialist Third Class rank on one
shoulder, still had the Ninth Infantry Division insignia on the other
I didn't wear my fatigues every day. I onlyin a moral
error I just recently became aware ofwore them when I was doing
very messy jobs. I spattered yellow paint on them when I helped
paint our house. I got dog poop on them when I was cleaning up the
yard. And so forth.
And the fatigues lasted and lasted and lasted.
Last week I discovered that wearing old military uniforms
for non-patriotic purposes has become a touchy subject in the Bush II
administration, and I've been reminded of it every night just before
I fall asleep when a neon light flashes on in my head saying "Thou
shalt not wear any part of thy military uniform at any time thou art
disagreeing with the way the president is using our military."
I would have been in big trouble had my wife not thrown
away my fatigues at about the same time Bush II got elected, sort of,
to his first term. She thereby saved me from a world of trouble,
i.e. the FBI seeing me clad in my old fatigues while disagreeing with
And where, you might ask, did I get such an idea? Let me
tell you. I got it from (1) an A.P. story dated June 14, and (2) a
Chicago Tribune piece dated June 24.
The A.P. story is about an Iraq war veteran, Marine Cpl.
Adam Kokesh who was about to get an honorable discharge when the
Washington Post published a photo of him wearing his uniform in an
anti-war demonstration in Washington.
When an officer told Kokesh he may have violated a rule
prohibiting the wearing of military uniforms as such protests, Kokesh
"responded to the superior with an obscenity" and the Marines
downgraded him to an "other than honorable" discharge.
The Chicago Tribune story ten days later is about several
Iraq War veterans who have gone public with their opposition to the war.
One of them is Liam Madden, a 22-year-old former Marine
sergeant accused of "wearing part of his uniform during an anti-war
rally." The Marine Corps recommended that he get "other than
honorable discharge" for being "disloyal."
The Truth, Mainly
And, the Tribune continued, "at least two other combat
veterans who have returned from tours in Iraq and become well-known
anti-war advocates have seen the military recommend them for less-
than-honorable discharges. One of them is a young man 80 percent
disabled from two tours who was threatened with losing his veteran's
disability benefits if he continued to protest in uniform."
The national VFW commander, Gary Kurpius, was quoted as
saying he might disagree with those veterans who protest against the
war "but I will always defend their right to say it
. Trying to
punish fellow Americans for exercising the same democratic rights
we're trying to instill in Iraq is not what we're about."
If, of course, the protesters don't wear any part of their
uniforms while they exercise those rights.
Thatís an "if" that at least one of the protesting
veterans accepted in an inventive way.
Here's the Tribune's account:
"Of the three Marines caught protesting in uniform, the
case of former Cpl. Cloy Richards has garnered the least public
attentionbut the most within military circles. The 23-year-old
from Missouri has been deemed 80 percent disabled from two tours in
Iraq; he agreed this month before a military discharge review board
that he would no longer protest in uniform to keep his honorable
discharge and his veteranís benefits
And get this:
"But that hasn't silenced Richards' protest. He now
attends anti-war demonstrations in civilian clothes; his mother
attends as well, wearing his old uniform for him."
And what will the Bush administration say about that?
Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity
from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail