When most people sign up to serve in the military they do so as a way to fulfil their patriotic duty, seek out new opportunities, receive training or an education, etc. The reasons for joining are numerous but most people enter feeling optimistic and positive. That optimism is beneficial but it can cause a glossing over of some of the facts of military life. Questions go unasked and this can lead to some basic mistakes such as not understanding that by joining the military you do lose a level of freedom.
Freedom is Not as Free for the Military
The freedom of speech is one of the core tenants of the Constitution and it is something that many American’s are adamant about. The ability to say what you want to whomever you want, assemble and protest, write a letter to the editor, etc. are all ways that you can exercise your freedom of speech – unless you are in the military. Service members have some basic restrictions on what they can and cannot say.
What You Cannot Say
According to Article 88 of the UCMJ, 10 U.S.C. 888 military officers are not allowed to say anything that could be considered contemptuous, if it is said against military enlisted personnel, Congress or the President. This may not seem like a big deal, except that it is. If you are following the presidential campaign and decide to make comments against President Obama that are considered contemptuous, you could be in violation, even though that is where you stand politically. If you are having a disagreement with someone else in the military and share your “contemptuous” feelings with others, that could be a violation. In the 1990’s, service members were reprimanded for mocking President Clinton via email. More recently, service members have gotten in trouble for what they have said on blogs or social media. Even what you say on personal platforms counts and could land you in trouble.
Further Limits on Free Speech
The military code of conduct also includes a ban on speech that could be considered disrespectful or insubordinate of a superior officer. Speech that is unbecoming of an officer or that could be viewed as bringing dispute on the service is also not allowed. Some of this is common sense. For example, you cannot be overtly rude or disrespectful to a commanding officer and understandably that would land you in trouble. While being disrespectful in the civilian world would never create the need for a criminal lawyer in Las Vegas, it could create the need for a military lawyer. Respect is something that the military takes very seriously so these are charges that warrant seeking legal help.
Know What You Are Dealing With
It is wise to take the time to understand what the military code of conduct is prior to entering the military. For some people, limits on their freedom of speech are not worth it. However, millions of service members have had successful military careers within these guidelines after simply adjusting their expectations. Knowledge, however, is the key to success.
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