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January 05, 2012 12:25 AM UTC

On a weird night in Iowa, a Soldier makes a decision.

  • by: SSG_Dan

( – promoted by ProgressiveCowgirl)

…the military blogosphere is posting like mad over CPL Jesse Thorsen’s endorsement of Rep Paul, in full uniform.

The not-cool part of this is the fact that he participated in a partisan political activity in uniform:

Army soldier rallying for Paul violated military ban on political activity

Ron Paul spent Tuesday heralding his support among members of the military, but one active-duty supporter may be in trouble after lauding Paul on stage while wearing his Army uniform.

Army Cpl. Jesse Thorsen spoke during Paul’s speech at his headquarters in Ankeny, Iowa, Tuesday night. Paul invited Thorsen to speak on stage after a technical glitch cut short an earlier live interview on CNN.

Guidelines laid out in the federal Hatch Act specifically prohibit uniformed members of the military from making political speeches or taking official roles on political campaigns. Members of the military are permitted to attend political rallies, but must not be wearing their uniform while in attendance. On stage with Paul, Thorsen was wearing green Army fatigues.


The regulations on this are crystal-clear and leave no “grey area”:

b. For members of the Armed Forces, AR 600-20, 1 February 2006, Appendix B and

DoDD 1344.10, provide regulatory guidance on political activities. For Army civilian

employees, the Joint Ethics Regulation, Chapter 6-201, lists permitted and prohibited

political activities.  

    c. A Soldier on Active Duty or Civilian DoD employee may:  

         (1) Express a personal opinion on political candidates and issues as a private

citizen, but not as an Army representative.  

         (2) Make monetary contributions to a political party favoring a particular candidate

or slate of candidates.  

         (3) Attend partisan and nonpartisan political meetings (Soldiers can attend

meetings only when not in uniform

And yet, there’s CPL Thorsen in ACUs, standing on the podium with a Presidential candidate, giving an endorsement.

This soldier is not some newbie out of basic who’s been mesmerized by the cameras and lights to give a boost to a fringe candidate. He’s a ten-year vet, and has heard the regulation above so many times I doubt that he could ever forget it.

That’s why this incident is so powerful. There’s no doubt in my mind that CPL Thorsen knew the rules, and chose to make this appearance in uniform despite the risks to his military career.

He can’t come out in uniform and denounce the non-stop wars we put our military in, so he did the next best thing  – he endorsed the candidate who did.

The cluster bombs are being dropped in milblogs across the interwebz over the level of offense this represents. Almost all agree that the Uniformed Code of Military Justice will allow his commander to (at least) take some of his free time and maybe a stripe or two, but I hope the worst he suffers is some “colorful” language and maybe some time spent running a buffer over the 1SG’s office.

Why? While I clearly agree that he violated military regulation and I absolutely support an absolute wall between the military and political activity, CPL Thorsen took the opportunity to say the military has had enough of the wars we’ve sent them on. Because he’s going to suffer some consequences makes it all the more powerful.

Consider this column from an AFPAK vet in TIME:

As the twitterverse and blogosphere criticize him for endorsing a presidential candidate in uniform, we must ask ourselves as a society why the uniform means so much to us, yet so little to him? More importantly, if we as a society truly do value the sacredness of the military uniform, what are we doing to show it? Put yourself in Corporal Thorsen’s shoes as he walked along Ron Paul’s podium, and consider this:

“If this uniform means so much, why do so many service members take off our uniforms to find ourselves jobless and homeless?

If this uniform means so much, why didn’t you or your child put one on, so that I didn’t have to leave my family for three tours of duty?”

I’m not condoning this line of questioning but simply asking our nation to consider this event as a small glimpse into the ramifications of having an all-volunteer Army at war for 10 years. Our veterans are tired and they feel like the world went by without them while they were at war or training for war. We must recognize that, in each of our returning veterans, there is an internal struggle to reconcile the utility of their life’s work over the past decade with the hardships they’ve endured. Our society’s ambivalence gives veterans the prerogative to define their worth of service – and thus the American uniform – on their own terms.…

In the end, once the Article 15 is read and CPL Thorsen decides to accept his punishment, I’m sure the first thing he’s going to think is this:

“I’m a Corporal in the United States Army who’s deployed to The Suck too many times. What are they going to do to me that hasn’t already done?”

And I hope his next thought is “TOTALLY worth it.”


35 thoughts on “On a weird night in Iowa, a Soldier makes a decision.

  1. All of them.

    Even the ones I disagree with otherwise there is no army, only individuals with agendas.  I am no different from Boykins or Lakins.

    1. His insight to take this out of the realm of black and white.  It’s not treason.  it’s not killing civilians for entertainment.  It’s an infraction. He’ll be proportionately (one hopes) punished and will accept the punishment, a choice Dan  surmises, given what he knows, was a conscious one. I’m not sure I like it but I appreciate what I’ve learned here from Dan.  

      1. either didn’t know or didn’t care that this young man was violating military protocol.

        A compassionate politician would have cared more about this man then his endorsement and told him to cover up.  The failure in this tawdry affair was this CIC wannabe who didn’t have the guts to protect this man from from his mistake.

      2. … at least I think.  I don’t think that Thorsten thought too much whether or not he was right or wrong in wearing his uniform, rather he wanted to make a visual statement and didn’t know s**t about the potential consequences.

        Hopefully he wasn’t on drill status when he did this that ramps up the potential punishment to include jail time.

  2. … rather he’s being dumb.  Thorsen has ten years time in service and is an (E-4), that’s indicative of a soldier who’s not exactly squared away. He made a rash decision, probably not even able to recall any of the numerous briefings on political involvement that he’s received, and he needs to be reminded that actions have consequences.

    I’d offer that he’s a “Joe” and “Joe is Dumb”.  The only way he’ll learn is if he receives an Article 15 and loses some rank and pay.

    1. But, during Vietnam, rank could come very quickly if you had a college degree.  The buildup was huge.  But I knew the minute I saw him in uniform at a caucus that he was in trouble.  It’s ok to go in Mufti, not in uniform.

      1. … then another five waiting for my TIS to catch up with my TIG to be eligible for E-7.

        Therson apparently was in from 2001 until 2005 with the Florida National Guard and then was out until 2009 when he enlisted in the Army Reserve.  The period in between apparently consisted of a lot time spent in court and jail fighting burglary and probation violations.  He’s served one overseas deployment to Afghanistan as a 12E, Heavy Equipment Operator.

        He’s not exactly a 10-yr veteran with multiple deployments overseas.  But it does explain his relatively low rank, which is likely about to become a bit lower.

        1. …however, if they feel like breaking out an Art15, he can be smartass and ask the Chain of Command to produce training records and counseling statements that show he was instructed in this particular regulation.

          It’s not a defense, but it would muddy the water enough to probably prevent the CDR from taking any rank.

          If he goes full-on smartass and asks for a Court Martial, he might make it go away since I doubt the command wants it to be in the press any longer than it has.

          But…if he does, I’d bet even money they’d go full-on with a Special Court Martial to make an example out of him.

          So I’m back to him getting his ass chewed on by the senior NCOs, some really miserable drill weekends for a while, and not much else…

          1. I don’t want to see him reduced in grade.

            But top sergeants have a way of getting corporal’s attentions when they want to, and that’s probably all that’s needed in this case.

  3. I fully agree that this young man has a right to his opinion. For too long, we have been sending our best and brightest into harms way to fight invisible enemies, stoked up by flawed foreign policy. Obama has not made the situation worse, but many people on the left believe he could have done a lot more to make it better. Young people all over America are tired of it, and Ron Paul has tapped into their anger. If Ron Paul accepts the Libertarian nomination in the end, he could be a spoiler for President Obama, not necessarily for the GOP.  

    1. but not to playing politics while wearing the uniform.  Civilian control of the military is what separates us from a banana republic.  Ask Douglas MacArthur how that worked out when he defied Harry S. Truman.

  4. And it happens every election cycle. I remember when two guys showed up in full uniform at a Larimer County Republican fundraiser and took pictures at the event with Marilyn Musgrave. They were fully aware of the rules. I think they got off pretty light, if I remember correctly.

    I think Thorsen’s case is quite a bit different as was his reason for doing so and I sort of hope he gets the minimum in the repercussions department.  

  5. The Constitution says civilian control of the military and the oath a soldier takes, pledges him to uphold that Constitution.

    I speak as an army brat.  I saw my father, combat veteran WWII and Korea, career military, struggle exactly with that oath.  He raged against politicians.

    He hated MacArthur and cheered when he was fired. But, all of that was done within his own home – never a word outside.  

    I know from watching him that the voluntary surrender of one of the  most important rights an American has…to public criticize his government, etc. is probably the hardest thing a soldier does….and the real sacrifice.

    What CPL Thorsen did, however, besides violating his oath, was to belittle all those who went before him and who did not violate their oath.  

    I don’t think he was noble; I think he was grandstanding.

    1. I’ve been a squad leader, a military supervisor and the Public Affairs NCO of a major Army Reserve unit. It was during that tour of duty that the 2000 election blew up and there were protests and counter-protests just outside the wire of the reserve center.

      I gave endless briefings (for officers) and threatened ass-chewings (for the enlisted troops) about this very regulation. It’s not just repeated at regular intervals, it’s browbeaten into your consciousness until you can recite the words in your sleep.

      So, under ordinary circumstances I might agree with you. But after reading the TIME column, my opinion changed. Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures.

      These wars have gone on for TEN DAMN YEARS and as a country we don’t give a shit. Both parties have used our troops as props or political foils, and now that they’re coming back tired, hurt and desperate for a job 99.5% of America is giving a collective “huh?” and wondering where they came from.

      As long as CPL Thorsen is ready to accept whatever cruel and unusual punishment his chain of command is going to dish out, I totally accept what he did. If he tries to weasel out of it, then I know he was grandstanding.  

      1. but he also showed disloyalty to his institution.

        The Iraq War is already over and done.  Fini

        To say that this soldier was acting honorably because of the meat grinder that the men have been in for the last ten years also misses the point that it is an ALL volunteer army.  If Thorsen was really that upset at the way the military treated him then he shouldn’t have re-enlisted twice.  It was his decision to stay knowing the state of the military.

        I was with you up until the “TOTALLY worth it” sentence.  Maybe it was your central point but it sucked in my opinion.  This guy isn’t anymore a hero than Larkin.

        1. There is always something that doesn’t ring true with Lakin and his “handlers.”  This is one thing:

          Lakin is a doctor. He must know that hospitals do not keep records forever.  Usually they are destroyed ten years after the last contact; usually this happens after a public notice. Now, the military may keep records forever; but, civilian hospitals do not.

          One of the claims made was for hospital birth records from 1962.  Responsible people, especially doctors, would know that the chances of those records still being available were slight.

          1. …why isn’t Blair Witch Lawyer jumping on the bandwagon to defend CPL Thorsen?

            Does the complete and absolute defeat at the hands of a Court Martial make her a little more gun-shy?

          2. I’m sure he was used by the hard right media (WND and their ilk) to run up page hits and stir up hysteria with those dopes. But “used,” as I understand it, would mean something more serious.

            Do you know of something else, dwyer? Some call for some soldier to defy his or her deployment that Lakin answered? Some assurances from interested parties that they’d have his back if he did that? Because if that didn’t happen, it’s hard to see how he was used otherwise.

  6. Would you feel the same if a Four-star stood up for Romney?

    I admire anyone who stands against bomb, bomb, bomb Iran, but I really cringe at anybody putting a semi-official military stamp on any pre-elected politician. W’s posturing in front of the troops time after time was sickening enough, but at least he was their Commander in Chief at the time.

    There are reasons for the Code.

    1. truism of military leadership is that nothing’s wrong until people get into official trouble. Solider bitch all the time, but when they intentionally disobey orders or fail to show up for duty, you do two things – punish them for the misconduct and you look to see if something’s broke.

      If a 4-star general endorses Mittens, then he should suffer the same level of consequence as an officer of his rank committing similar misconduct. That probably means something more substantial than doing extra duty, but I’d also like to know WHAT policy that General endorses that makes him risk his career.

      I guess that’s what I’m failing to communicate – if someone intentionally commits misconduct over something like this, then there’s probably a lot more SM’s that feel the same way.

      If more military people do this, then maybe the rest of the country can finally realize that the Military’s had enough of these endless wars. They can’t criticize the military directly or disobey orders, but this seems to be next best option – endorse the guy who IS saying that.

    1. the uniform was extraneous as well and being worn just for him to grab attention. He’ll get some extra duty, probably be mopping and waxing floor for several of his weekend duties coming up. That should probably be sufficient punishment and prevent him from being made a marty which he would probably enjoy.

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