An Afghanistan war veteran is in trouble for giving a political speech while in uniform at a caucus night rally with Ron Paul on Tuesday in Iowa.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Reserve told TPM on Wednesday that Cpl. Jesse Thorsen may have violated military policy when he wore his fatigues on stage and praised the Texas congressman’s presidential bid.
Thorsen’s commander is now looking into the speech and will figure out what to do next, said the spokeswoman, Maj. Angel Wallace.
The Des Moines-based soldier served in Afghanistan but hasn’t been on active duty since October, Wallace said. However, he still serves a weekend a month and two weeks a year as a reservist and may be deployed to Afghanistan again in about a year.
Thorsen seemed awestruck to stand alongside the Republican candidate on Tuesday, telling the crowd it was “like meeting a rock star.” He praised Paul’s anti-war stance.
“His foreign policy is, by far, hands down, better than any candidate’s out there. And I’m sure you all know that,” the reservist said. “We don’t need to be picking fights overseas and I think everybody else knows that, too.”
The crowd cheered, but observers who know military law cringed.
“He’s got a problem on his hands and certainly he should have known better,” said Eugene Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale Law School. “All kinds of lights and buzzers should have gone off.”
Had Thorsen been on active duty, he could have faced up to two years in military prison and a dishonorable discharge, Fidell said. But even off active duty, he may still be facing punishment.
Fidell said Paul’s campaign should have known better, too. That night’s third-place finish “must have been better than they expected,” Fidell said, because “they allowed their better judgement to get away from them.”
Paul’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Meanwhile, the military distanced itself from the speech.
“His beliefs and speech in no way reflect the views of the Army Reserve,” Wallace said. “This soldier stands alone.”
Nick Martin is an associate editor at TPM in New York City. He came to the site in 2011 as a reporter for TPMMuckraker. Previously, he worked in Arizona, first as a staff reporter for a local newspaper and later as a freelance journalist. He also ran the news blog Heat City. Contact him: nick [at] talkingpointsmemo.com