Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Verbal Assaults on Military Members

Michael Yon has a story and a warning to military members traveling on mass transit, particularly the Washington Metro.
Recently, there have been local incidents in which military personnel have been verbally assaulted while commuting on the Metro. Uniformed members have been approached by individuals expressing themselves as anti-government, shouting anti-war sentiments, and using racial slurs against minorities.

In one instance, a member was followed onto the platform by an individual who continued to berate her as she exited the
metro station. Thus far, these incidents have occurred in the vicinity of the Reagan National Airport and Eisenhower Ave metro stations on the yellow line, however, military members should be vigilant and aware of their surroundings at all times while in mass transit.

Should you be approached by any individuals expressing anti-government/anti-war sentiments, or any other types of direct verbal assault, immediately notify your local police jurisdiction. If riding metro, exit the train at the next stop, distance yourself from the individual, and notify the Metro Transit Police Department.
As one commenter noted, freedom of speech, including freedom of stupid speech, is one of the rights our military protects. This is true.

But verbal harrassment and threats (if they occur) are a criminal act. If a stupid person causes concern in an individual, even a military member, that the individual may fear for their safety, then that is an assualt (actually touching a person is battery--just to be legally clear).

I was in the military, in Washington, DC in the lead up to the first Gulf War. We were warned by out unit leadership to not wear our uniforms off base (which we didn't since Ceremonial Guard uniforms are a pain to keep pressed and ready--why ruin them by wearing them off base) and we were told not to wear our unit jackets, a piece of semi-authorized gear similar to a cruise jacket. Now, the fact that a group of us at a local mall or sporting event, walking together, unconciously in step and with high and tight haircuts, we screamed military without saying a word. Several members of my unit reported being harassed by people for being military although I experienced none of it. This was particularly worrisome for our officers and senior enlisted because most of the members of hte Ceremonial Guard were 18 or 19 years old and had never experienced this kind of harassment before.

What is troubling is that the average person on the street doesn't understand that some junior enlisted or junior officer has no more control over military policy than a mailroom clerk has over major corporate policy. Verbally abusing someone of such rank will not change policy, even if the verbal assault is reported. That stupid yeller may also end up berating someone who thinks the same way--you don't know. All these incidents point out is that there are some really stupid, really unhappy people out there who think that they are being brave by standing up to some random military member in on the Metro.

What is odd to me is that military members are very common in the DC area, and this type of treatment just seems trivial to me. I guess the greater the proximity to the military in metropolitan areas, the less respect people have for the military.

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