Marines discharge sergeant who criticized President Obama on Facebook

Eric Pfeiffer

The Marines announced they are discharging Sgt. Gary Stein after the 9-year veteran used his Facebook account to criticize President Obama.

"I love the Marine Corps, I love my job. I wish it wouldn't have gone this way. I'm having a hard time seeing how 15 words on Facebook could have ruined my nine-year career," Stein told the AP.

Stein will receive an other-than-honorable discharge (OTH), which means he will lose most of his post-service military benefits, the Corps said. In addition, the OTH discharge means Stein will not be eligible to re-enlist in any other branch of the armed forces.

The story has ignited a debate over the First Amendment rights of men and women serving in the military.

Stein said he was only exercising his constitutional rights to free speech on March 1 when he wrote on a Facebook page designated for Marine meteorologists, "Screw Obama and I will not follow all orders from him."

Though Stein amended his original post to say he would only refuse to follow any "unlawful" orders, he reportedly resisted offers from the Corps to retract his statement.

"The Marine Corps gave him the opportunity to think about his actions, yet Sgt. Stein continued to undermine the chain of command," said former Army colonel and military prosecutor Tom Umberg.

Umberg was not directly involved in Stein's case but said he believes his behavior was deliberate.

"I think his purpose was to leave the Marine Corps in a dramatic fashion in order to begin a career in talk radio or what have you."

Stein's attorney Gary Kreep, who also serves as executive director of the United States Justice Foundation, said he would pursue administrative appeals within the Marine Corps.

"As long as he wants to pursue this, we will be supporting him," Kreep said.

In addition to his anti-Obama posting, Stein also created another Facebook page entitled, "Armed Forces Tea Party," which included several anti-Obama parody images.

In addition to restrictions against criticizing the commander-in-chief, Pentagon rules forbid military personnel from sponsoring political clubs or taking part in public discussions that advocate for or against a political party, candidate or cause.

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