A conservative Marine who started an armed forces tea party Web page has been given an "other than honorable" discharge for misconduct after declaring on Facebook, "Screw Obama. I will not follow all orders from him."
Sgt. Gary Stein later clarified his remarks to say he wouldn't follow unlawful orders from the president and argued his online comments were protected by the First Amendment, ABC News San Diego affiliate KGTV reported.
In addition, he has expressed regret for his remark, at one point writing on Facebook, "The words that I used were tasteless and I could have articulated my point more clearly. I am man enough to admit my mistakes."
But today, Brig. Gen. Daniel Yoo, the commanding general for Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, nevertheless upheld an earlier decision by an administrative separation board to give Stein the "other than honorable" discharge, according to a news release by the Marines.
"I love the Marine Corps, I love my job," Stein told The Associated Press today. "I wish it wouldn't have gone this way. I'm having a hard time seeing how 15 words on Facebook could have ruined my nine-year career."
Stein, 26, based at Camp Pendleton, was put on notice of a possible violation of the Uniform Code of Justice last month after his Obama comment, KGTV reported. The military subsequently cited other anti-Obama comments in Stein's online postings.
Today, Stein acknowledged the discharge on his Facebook page.
"I have spent the last 9 years honorably serving this great nation and the Corps," Stein wrote. "Even though I will be discharged no one can take the title of Marine away from me. I thank my family and friends for their support and love. Today is just the start of the rest of my life. Semper Fi."
The manner of discharge will hit Stein in the wallet, according to the Marine statement.
"A Marine being separated as a result of adverse conduct can receive an other than honorable characterization of discharge if the basis for separation is the commission of a serious offense which is a significant departure from the conduct expected of a Marine," the statement read. "Marines administratively separated with an 'other than honorable' discharge are automatically reduced to pay grade E-3, to become effective upon separation."
The move is expected to mean Stein will not receive benefits following his nine years of military service. His contract with the Marines was scheduled to expire on July 28.
Stein tried to stop the tribunal's processes by filing a preliminary injunction in the U.S. District Court in the Southern California District, but federal judge Marilyn Huff denied the request.
She told one of Stein's attorneys, "You understand it's a pretty sensitive comment that he made," adding, "He can't do that," KGTV reported.
An attorney for Stein said he would continue to fight the discharge decision within the Marines and in federal court, the AP reported.