April 25th, 2012
07:13 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Soldiers can't say whatever they want, or can they?

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

Sgt. Gary Stein was given an "other-than-honorable" discharge for using his Facebook page to criticize President Barack Obama, said Capt. Brian Block, a spokesman for the Marines. We received thousands of comments from our readers, with many of them saying that a soldier cannot criticize the president any more than an employee should publicly critique their boss or CEO.

Marine discharged over online Obama comments

This was the most-liked comment:

rshanks66: "This is not a freedom of speech issue. It’s a military code of conduct issue. The president is the Commander in Chief. As a member of the service, you do not have the right to say you’re 'not going to follow orders.' It doesn’t matter if you like the officer or not. Everyone knows that."

But could there be unintended consequences?

Scott Giddens: "I don't care who you are or who you voted for. I would not make fun or joke about when the government aggressively silences dissident views even if it was justified. It simply smells bad. More than likely, the soldier was made an example to prevent more dissidence. If more soldiers did this, say 25-50, I wonder what the government would do then. This could backfire on us, with soldiers defending their fellow soldiers first and their country second."

In the business world, some readers argued, one must choose their words.

Sean: "Can I post nonsense about my boss and not expect to be terminated? Like or not, Obama is the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Military. This Marine should have understood his oath, and saved his views for after his discharge. MacArthur should have served as his precedent."

Some lamented the decision to discharge Stein.

Raebo: "A Marine who used his Facebook page to criticize President Barack Obama has been discharged. The key word here is 'HIS' Facebook page. And you thought this type of big brother interference only took place in places where human rights are not protected. He should at least for now be thankful for one thing. In North Korea, you are executed."

Another reader said they had to hold their tongue when they served.

royboy361: "As a retired military member myself I don't feel a bit sorry for this guy. The president is his commander and chief. You don't say anything that puts the President in an unflattering light no matter who is President. If that was the case I would have said things about George Bush. Show this guy the door and don't let it hit you on the way out. You should have known better!"

One person said they smell hypocrisy.

accorn: "We live in a funny world. Soldiers are not allowed to have political opinions ... apparently to protect the purity of our republic and their role in it, yet we have no problem with corporations buying and owning our candidates."

This commenter suggested a more severe discharge.

David1154: "I disagree. He should have been given a dishonorable discharge. Other-than-honorable is too good for him. He knew the rules and he knowingly violated the UCMJ. Just because the president is not to your liking does not matter. He is the commander in chief, and you're not. You follow all lawful orders, like it or not."

Potentially, this user suggested, this incident is a sign of growing discontent with U.S. military activity.

tullymd: "At least he didn't in vain in the failed, futile Afghan war. The average soldier knows this war is ridiculous and secretly or not so secretly holds our leadership in contempt. Burning Korans, urinating on corpses etc are only the beginnings of what we'll see as their frustration bursts forth.. Get ready for a well deserved national humiliation ala Vietnam."

There were users who said they wouldn't disagree with the soldier's views, but they don't like his actions.

Tr1Xen: "I agree with this decision. As many of you regulars know, I'm the last person you'll see defending Obama, but it is grossly inappropriate for an active member of the armed forces to make any public comments–particularly in writing via a social medium such as Facebook - decrying the commander-in-chief as a "domestic enemy." Sgt. Stein was absolutely in the wrong here - no ifs, ands, or buts. It's not acceptable under any circumstance, election year or not."

Some people wondered what is happening to the country.

InterestingStory: "There is no freedom of speech in America. You get flagged or blocked for speaking the truth."

What do you think? Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. Or sound off on video via CNN iReport.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Marines • Military • Overheard on CNN.com • Politics
soundoff (159 Responses)
  1. Dick Hertz

    Way to go! Kick out the one with the guts to do the fighting.

    April 25, 2012 at 9:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Randall -- God's Chosen One


      April 25, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • 1nd3p3n3nt

      frankly, all marines have the guts.
      first in, last out
      semper fi devil dogs!

      April 25, 2012 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Raphael

    Back in the time of slavery, slaves couldn't openly express themselves without the threat of punishment. When you sign the dotted lines to join the military, you have given your body and soul away to the U.S. government. The government can use you for whatever they want once you have signed the papers. No one really believes that the military is run like a democracy. Be careful what you wish for. The military has its own code of conduct, and even I don't agree with it, that is the system this dissenting Marine freely chose to be a part of.
    The ridiculous part of all of this is that everyone knows the war in Afghanistan is unnecessary, and this country is based on dissent. I'll give you a good example: America wouldn't be a country if Americans hadn't committed treason against the British during the Revolutionary War. Sometimes, there are valid reasons to disobey. That's what it means to be a conscientious objector.

    April 25, 2012 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
  3. TonyD

    Tea partier huh? sounds like a set up for the Republican party o have something to build on. They have nothing else.

    April 25, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Franklin Cord

    I find it interesting how this issue is dividing so clearly along partisan lines. The young man was discharged and lost his military benefits. An "Other than honorable discharge" makes this an employment law issue, not a First Amendment issue. If this man had been sent to military prison for his comments then there would be a viable First Amendment argument to be made.

    Furthermore, the exact same people who are trying to claim this situation is a travesty are almost always the exact same ones who will argue endlessly that a catholic school has the right to fire a female teacher who is single and pregnant so their side does tend to look like hypocrites.

    April 25, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cynic

      I think you hit the nail on the head.

      They only want other people to follow the law while they run around like banshees violating the law left and right.

      And they hide behind their religion if they can or use anything else they can to try and distance themselves from their own crimes.
      Bullies who complain they're getting persecuted when they're caught. Robbers who claim their victims forced them to commit a crime.
      That's the Republican party all over.

      April 25, 2012 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Solution Sam

      Sorry about the double post. I haven't seen an "awaiting moderation" thing in months and did not expect the post to be actually reviewed and approved like they do in the political blogs. I thought I had fallen afoul of the old filter. This must be a new one. Live and learn.

      April 26, 2012 at 12:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Yars

      I see they've deleted both of my posts!

      WHO is the big baby at CNN? WHO? Whoever you are I bet you know just how disgusting you are. You should be fired.

      April 26, 2012 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  5. banasy©

    aw, gee thanks.
    I think you're pretty "special", too!

    April 25, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Greek American

    Another idiot who posts useless and stupid opinions and commentd on Facebook, the anti-christ of our society. Nobody cares. Funny what happened to him though hahaha. Now go update your F+*#book status to let everyone know you just used the bathroom, because we all really want to know such important things. Idiot.

    April 25, 2012 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. clearmind

    Has anyone checked out this guy`s mental state? Seriously. He chose to give in to his anger, after being warned. He chose to lose every benefit he worked for because he wanted to say something on FB! Something is off kilter somewhere, that not rational thinking

    April 25, 2012 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      clearmind, hello!
      How are you, sir?
      I have missed you, and hope you are doing well.

      April 25, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ♚Mmmmm♛

    i criticizing the boss should not be a fireable offense...but the military situ is a totally diferent venue, following commands and respect of leadership can win or lose battles or affect morale...a renagade in the bunch only helps the enemy...sorry brah! woulddah caught your back if you was on a civilian job or govt job...but military...that's a major no-no! and discipline is 24/7...hoorah!

    April 25, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • GeneK

      In the civilian world, publicly criticizing your boss and identifying yourself as an employee of your company will virtually guarantee you a place on the unemployment line. Go beyond criticizing and personally insult your boss and you'll probably be fired for cause (insubordination, just as in this case) and forget about collecting unemployment.

      April 25, 2012 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Gan

    Somebody needs to grow up and mature a little bit, and it is not banasy. Please do the boards a favor and keep your child-like behavior to yourself.

    April 25, 2012 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • ♚Mmmmm♛

      ...gan monologues???

      April 25, 2012 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gan

      My response was to a post that has since been deleted. I am also part Chinnese. Do you have a problem with that?

      April 25, 2012 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gan

      Chinese, rather. My fingers are not so nimble anymore. I must look as silly as the posts I was commenting about.

      April 25, 2012 at 11:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. clearmind

    Hey Girl! I am doin good. The holidays were hard for me, needed to take some time to fall apart. Hope all is well with you and you family. Joey also, last time I was on he wasnt feeling well. Take care my friend.

    April 25, 2012 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Greek American


    April 25, 2012 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. nunya

    Sorry Folks – Commander in Cheif or not – He is an ELECTED OFFICIAL – AND EVERYONE HAS THE RIGHT TO CRITIQUE THIER ELECTED OFFICIALS – He was not critical of the Commander in Chief – he was critical of THE PRESIDENT.. JUST STATING MY OPINION. I am sure that Hitler's men were not allowed to be critical of him. Now, I can understand if he was critical of the Commandant of the the Marine Corps – HE IS NOT ELECTED.... NEANDERTHALIC SOCIETY

    April 25, 2012 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobcat (in a hat) ©


      You made absolutely no sense with that tirade. You said he was not critical of the commander in chief, he was critical of the president. What the ?? You do realize that the president and commander in chief are one and the same, don't you ?

      April 25, 2012 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Carrier

      Go to work and criticize your boss publicly and see what happens to you. If you have stuff you want to say about the CiC, do it after you are discharged.. like everybody else.

      April 26, 2012 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Madame Royale

      Your u/n made me laugh out loud.

      April 26, 2012 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
    • SGT Bee

      UCMJ, look it up, he crossed the line, this is the military not back on the block with your mom and pop saying whatever the hell you want. Oh, and to everyone who keeps defending him, social media is controlled by the military as well, personal and public. If people don't like it, DON'T SIGN UP! We have rules, break them, pay. Simple as that, go work at a McDonald's if it makes you that upset. No sympathy to people who act up like that.

      April 26, 2012 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
  13. scott

    when u put the uniform on, your job is to protect democracy not to practise it!!! the president is the commander-in-chief, if u dont like the president, at the end of your tour of duty, get out. this guy was wrong, end of story

    April 26, 2012 at 12:48 am | Report abuse |
  14. JerseyJeff

    He can say whatever he likes now... Since he is discharged.
    Hope throwing away his military career was worth his political statement against his superiors.

    April 26, 2012 at 7:42 am | Report abuse |
  15. Ronnie12345

    I think he has the right to be an ass but when a solider criticize a commanding officer its not the best course of action so why criticize the commander and chief.

    April 26, 2012 at 8:17 am | Report abuse |
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