Monday, July 04, 2005

Still Tied to the Mast

Way back in 1973, I was stationed on a Submarine that was in the shipyard after we returned from a 3 month tour beneath the Atlantic. This was a time when President Nixon was starting to get into his Watergate mess and it was being finally revealed that the U.S. had been secretly bombing Cambodia since at least 1969.

Two fellow sailors and myself started keeping a log, or diary if you will, outlining our objections to this outrage and indeed to the war itself. We contributed to this diary on lonely nights when we were keeping watch at the top of the gang plank. Armed with a .45 and a mighty pen, we built quite a diary over a couple of months that we kept hidden deep under a pile of foul weather gear. We called it the "Top Side Graffiti Log".

Sure enough, an officer eventually discovered the unsigned entries and sent the log off to Fort Gordon Ga, where the Army's hand writing experts identified the culprits. The three of us spent the next several months being hounded by the Navy's legal system and the Secret Service and I ended ended up being convicted at a Captain's Mast, resulting in a demotion in rank and restriction to base.

I left the Mast unrepentant and walked directly to the Marine Headquarters at the shipyard and asked around until I found a Marine lawyer and told him my story. He was delighted I had sought him out and proceeded to build a case in my defense including an emergency appeal that lifted my on base restriction within 2 days because my wife and children lived off base. The charge on which I was convicted was "Insubordination to a Superior Commissioned Officer (Commander in Chief).

After months of work, we attended an elaborate appeals hearing with Admirals sitting in judgement. We won on the technicality that Nixon was not a "Commissioned" officer. But better yet, the Captain of my boat was publicly dressed down in front of the whole room for violating my rights of free speech. I got my stripe back, got all my back pay and was soon promoted to the next higher rank.

It's important to keep in mind that this particular Commander in Chief had grown increasingly unpopular with the rank and file of the armed forces. Similarities abound today. So to all the brave men and women of the United States military who feel the need to speak out against what they see as an unjust war, please take my story to heart and fear not being silenced, for you are truly the beacon of freedom for our great country, the United States of America. Happy Birthday!

Randall's DailyKos Diary

One Soldier's Predicament with Freedom of Speech


Anonymous Joybusey said...

Yo, Billy!

On this 4th of July I am very pleased to note that we are once again in contact with one of the notorious offenders of that long-ago Captain's Mast. Who called out of the clear blue, after... way too many years! Can't wait to see you, my love. Introduce you to the grands, the adopteds, and the adopted-grands - who call Randall "Uncle Grandpa" [which, I've heard, makes us finally 'locals'].

See you soon! :)

7:06 PM, July 04, 2005  

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