On Friday, I had the pleasure of watching our 1st Cavalry Division Horse Detachment represent us in the inaugural parade.
Later that evening, I cheered as other First Team soldiers had the honor of welcoming the new commander in chief by video from Afghanistan during the Military and First Responders Ball.
It was nice to see our fine soldiers nationally recognized.
As the weekend progressed, I began to see photos of a soldier in full uniform participating in one of the protests over the inauguration.
I had to smack my head and immediately — probably through muscle memory of previous head smacks — I remembered a speech I was given as a young Marine during President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration about what not to do as an active-duty service member.
It was a pretty simple speech — considering I and my fellows were still young, 10-foot tall and bulletproof — that pretty much sounded like, “Don’t do it. Bad Marine. No beer money.”
The next five inaugurations I would have the honor of serving through, I ended up giving similar speeches to my troops. Granted, the speech evolved to something resembling full sentences, but the essence remained the same.
At no time, regardless of our own personal political beliefs, is it acceptable to participate in a protest of any kind while in uniform.
It is punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and will likely end with you receiving a bad conduct discharge and some jail time.
And it doesn’t matter if a soldier is protesting for Trump or against him.
The military is an apolitical entity — we have to take the orders of whomever holds the office of President of the United States.
Wearing a uniform to a protest which questions any branch of our federal government is a statement that can be taken as the military condoning the protest.
If you feel your political beliefs must be heard, it’s time you request a hardship discharge.
You may or may not receive it, but the alternative is a discharge that will ruin your life.
If you receive a bad conduct or dishonorable discharge, you lose more than just your rank and money.
You lose all benefits — forever. No college money, no disability from Veterans Affairs, no assistance whatsoever by any veteran organization when you get in a monetary bind.
You have the same status as a convicted felon.
So before you go out and publicly voice your opinion, think hard about what that may do to your future.
Don’t do it. Bad soldier. No more benefits, ever.
David A. BRYANT is an Army retiree and the military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-501-7554.