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. BC

    Acorrding to Obama & the Liberals you cant say anything negative about this administration without being punished.....we need to get rid of these clowns in Nov. Impeach Obama!!!#

    April 26, 2012 at 8:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Madame Royale

      No.
      he went of FB and stated he would NOT obey an order given to him by Obama.
      He was not critisizing, he was stating that he would not obey an order fro the highest Commanding Officer in this country.
      If he had said the same thing about any sitting POTUS, the result would have been the same.

      April 26, 2012 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |
  2. Military Guy

    Rules haven't change – if you are representing yourself (i.e. david smith believes in this) is is alreight. If you are active duty and you say ( I am Sgt X and I believe this) is is a violation of the UCMJ. If you say (I am david smith and I am active duty and I belive in this) it is AGAIN a violation of the UCMJ. If you tie your active duty service to a statement (IN PUBLIC) you are held accountable PERIOD!

    April 26, 2012 at 8:29 am | Report abuse |
  3. BC

    anyone hear about FREEDOM OF SPEECH!!?? You cant compare this to telling your boss hes an idiot. You dumb a s s Liberals think we work for this clown Obama. He works for us!! And we the people are going to fire him in November!!! Next question.........

    April 26, 2012 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
    • barnbldr

      This marine VOLUNTARILY surrendered some of his rights when he sign up as a marine. No one is taking them away from him. He was made aware of the rules and chose to violate them.

      April 26, 2012 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
  4. Josh

    i beilieve that this man should be able to say whater he damn well pleases. the only reason you guys are saying this is wrong is because all you people are democrats. if any republican would be president everyone that is against this would not have said a word. now what happened to freedom of speech, this man who fought for you an me had an opinion and he has every right to publish that opinion on HIS facebook.

    April 26, 2012 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |
  5. Yabaduu

    He signed a contract and took an oath VOLUNTARILY, period. He knew what rights he was giving up. He should have had the full weight of the UCMJ thrown at him. The tea party will display him as a victim so he can be their poster child. Your 15 minutes are up. Your no longer a Marine.

    April 26, 2012 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
  6. Mr Dalloway

    And now Mr Stein can go somewhere and shut the hell up.

    April 26, 2012 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Pete

      Mr.Dalloway,he's now a public figure of sorts.The extreme rightwing hypocrites will futher his brainwashing,making him another political plumber of sorts for the rightwing hypocrites,who's motives are now clear.The motives that they will try to undo everything the peoples president has already fixed or changed for the nations benefit in the future.Their changes would plunge us into economic chaos,much like that of Bush in his 8 horrendous years as this nations leader.Please,we don't need any more Mr.Steins,Boehners,Nugents or any other poor examples of their so called patriotic views,no more hypocricy,not from ones who did nothing during Bushs economic debacles.....

      April 26, 2012 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
  7. Will

    He joined the military... Why? If he disagrees with the current president then why join? To protect his country? From the presidents evil doings? I disagree with some policies and I would join the military in a heartbeat bu I'm intelligible. I would never openly criticize the president... Just stupid nd. Complete air head.

    April 26, 2012 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
    • TheTruth

      He joined before President Obama was elected. Next time take the time to read the whole story not just the catchy headline.

      April 26, 2012 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
    • usmarine1

      He enlisted under Bush.

      April 26, 2012 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Madame Royale

      Once they take that oath, they are duty-bound to obey it, no matter if they like the current POTUS or not.
      The end.

      April 26, 2012 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
  8. Steve- Illinois

    I don't know exactly what it was he put on his facebook page, but any member of the military knows their is a chain of command, and the President sits at the absolute top of it! Did he deserve punishment? Yes. Did he deserve to be discharged? Not sure. As an NCO this Marine is fully aware that their is little tolerance for insubordination. This Sargeant wouldn't stand for it from the men under him, and should have known better.

    April 26, 2012 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Madame Royale

      I suspect yiu are right, but he did not, so we ARE having this discussion.

      April 26, 2012 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Madame Royale

      That reply was meant for jrm..
      Apologies.

      April 26, 2012 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  9. jrm

    Members of the military are held in special honor and special esteem because they make SPECIAL SACRIFICES. Besides the sacrifices implicit in armed conflict, there are also sacrifices with respect to HOW and to what extent you can speak your mind. I dare say that if this Marine had expressed his disagreements in a polite manner, while maintaining that he would always follow a lawful order, we would not be having this discussion.

    April 26, 2012 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  10. RETHUGS ARE GONE!

    WHATEVER.

    THE MILITARY IS AN INSTRUMENT OF FORCE THAT NEEDS TO BE FULLY DISCIPLINED. YOU CANNOT E=V=E=R HAVE A SLDIER CRITICIZE HIS/HER COMMANDER, LET ALONE THE COMMANDER IN CHIEF!!!!!!

    TRY DOING THAT TO YOUR BOSS, OWNER OR CEO AT YOUR JOB.SEE WHAT HAPPENDS TO YOU. THIS "MARINE" IS LUCKY HE'S NOT IN A MILITARY JAIL.

    April 26, 2012 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
  11. sayer

    He knew what he signed up for. Took a risk and lost. No sympathy here. What a noob.

    April 26, 2012 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  12. Scottish Mama

    He is a treasonous soldier. Now he has all the free speech time he can handle. He did not want to be in the service anymore. He chose his course, deal with it. Tea party is on its way out. When the tea party decided to say no 2ce as much as the republican party they sealed their fate. When your slogan is my way or hwy. you have lost most of the support of our country.

    April 26, 2012 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  13. crabbyappleton

    sticks and stones...

    April 26, 2012 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
  14. JOn

    I'm all for freedom of speech, but, as a member of the military, he is subject to insubordination, and that clearly is what is going on here. Do I think he should potentially make a huge fuss about it? Sure why not, it is a free country.

    April 26, 2012 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  15. The Shephard

    If I was in the military and in combat and the President of the United States was apologizing to our enemy that we are at war with several times, I might add, I would be on FACEBOOK too putting him down. If I was the Marines, I would actually refuse to follow any of this President's orders. I mean really now.

    April 26, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
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