Iraq veteran and honorably discharged Marine Sgt. Adam Kokesh was brought before a military hearing last Monday after being accused of misconduct. Officially, his crime was wearing his military uniform without authorization. But unlike many of the estimated 200,000 homeless veterans also wearing their uniforms without permission, Kokesh was in uniform at an antiwar demonstration marking the fourth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.
His crime is being an antiwar Marine.
The military panel recommended downgrading Kokesh's discharge from honorable to general under honorable conditions. While this change in discharge will not significantly change matters for him, such as his benefits, the Marine has vowed to fight the recommendation with an appeal. Adam is a fellow member of Iraq Veterans Against the War; we have several members who have legal actions being brought against them by the military for being publicly antiwar. Those of us, who applaud this patriot and others in the military who are speaking out and subsequently being punished by the military, should be giving our full support.
If anyone deserves to voice their opinions about Iraq, it is the men and women who have served and seen firsthand the overwhelming tragedies of this disastrous war. These are the people who are risking their lives everyday to protect our cherished freedoms, only to have their fundamental rights to free speech denied.
If Sgt. Kokesh wanted to play it safe, he would have waited to protest until after June 18th, when he was scheduled to be discharged from the Individual Ready Reserve. At that point he would no longer be held accountable to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. But the anniversary of the war happened to fall earlier in the year, and true patriots do not wait until it is convenient or safe to act upon their beliefs. That the military would charge someone so close to discharge with misconduct for such a minor indiscretion shows how desperate they are to contain the emerging antiwar voices among their ranks as discontent with the war continues to rise.
Until this war is over, our troops have returned safe, and received their hard earned benefits and health care, Iraq Veterans Against the War will continue our public campaign. Since the war began, veterans have marched at the forefront of the peace movement. The military has sought all along to make examples out of us to prevent others from speaking out. In early 2003, I was the first to speak out against the war and I would proudly serve another five months in military prison rather than serve five hours in this illegal and immoral war. In the past four years there have been several other high-profile cases and several other prison sentences. Everyday our men and women in uniform are realizing they would rather serve time in the brig, than time in country.