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What is Honor? An Update From Stuart Scheller


Stuart Scheller and Vet

I appealed my military discharge to the Naval Discharge Review Board and have been granted an in-person appearance on 22 February at the Washington Naval Yard. This post is an attempt to generate conversation in the comments to help me with my oral statement. 


The central question I’m trying to understand is: What is honor? 


If you remember the story, I was the Marine Corps LtCol who posted a social media video demanding accountability for our military leadership’s failures during the Afghanistan withdrawal. The entire ordeal got very ugly. I was forced to undergo mental health screening, slandered in the media, imprisoned, court-martialed, and ultimately, I resigned from the Marine Corps short of my retirement. On the way out the door, I received a general under honorable discharge rather than an honorable discharge. 


The government’s argument is that while I was in pre-trial solitary confinement, I pled guilty at a special court martial for violating the social media policy, conduct unbecoming a gentleman, and three other charges, all centering around the fact that I broke the chain of command to publicly say what my leaders didn’t have the courage to say. I’ve been very honest and accountable for my actions by admitting that for an entire month of my 17 year military service, I was not a gentleman, and I violated the social media policy. But of note, I was never charged with giving a false statement. 


Two years following the Afghanistan withdrawal, General McKenzie on a Fox News interview was asked if he regretted any of his decisions as the commanding general leading the Afghanistan withdrawal, and he stated, “I have a lot of regrets about how it ended in Afghanistan. I regret the basic decision, which I think was the wrong decision. And I particularly regret that we did not choose to evacuate our people, our embassy personnel, or American citizens, and our at risk Afghans, at the time we made the decision to bring out our combat forces. I think that was a serious mistake and led to the events of August 2021 directly.”  He then went on to say that “I believe history will view the manner in which the Afghanistan withdrawal was conducted as a fatal flaw, and history will be very hard on that.”


The current instability across the globe following this American military blunder is easy to identify. And somehow, I have this feeling in my gut that “honor” is both the problem and the solution.


Should a military officer follow orders that he knows will lead to catastrophe, death, and global instability?  


And, shouldn’t every military officer observing such a clusterf^ck use all of their power to influence the situation? 


The American military member is very aware that “A military service member must obey orders unless it is illegal, immoral, or unethical.” But if it is predictable that a military operation is “the wrong decision” and will lead to a deteriorating global security situation threatening the lives of service members for years to come, then logically isn’t this order immoral and unethical? 


During my struggle with the Marine Corps, I tried preferring legal charges on General McKenzie, which is allowed by the Manual for Courts Martial for any active service member witnessing a crime, but my attempt was illegally stopped by the same general officer who recommended I get a discharge less than honorable. The system, driven by misguided incentives, inherently protects itself before the young people serving in it. 


The Naval Discharge Review Board (NDRB), the arbitrator of honor, is a military system like the rest of the bureaucracy. If you want to play politics, it’s very easy to manipulate the system for personal benefit at the cost of the greater good. Any service member appealing their discharge who gets a doctor to diagnose them with PTSD, which with combat experiences like mine is simple, automatically obligates the board to upgrade the discharge to honorable based on the regulations. Easy as that. Claim to be a victim of your experiences, and the military leadership rewards you. Claim to take a principled stance against the military leadership’s decisions and the system will punish you. Misguided incentives rotting an organization from the inside. 


But something about that word ‘honor’ makes it impossible for me to swallow the victim pill. I don’t want to end up like General McKenzie: living with regrets. PTSD didn’t drive my actions honor did, even if, at times, I said some unsavory things. The biggest threat to a republic is everyone “just doing their job” as leadership complacently fails. 


My legal argument, despite the protests from my lawyer who wants me to go the PTSD route, is simple: does one month of publicly demanding accountability for military leadership’s bad decisions, which even those leaders now acknowledge, negate my 17 years of honorable service? 

 

Even though service members swear an oath to the Constitution or to obey the orders of the President or the officers above them, what happens when those things don’t provide clear answers to the tough moral and ethical situations encountered every day? I believe, in the end, we all must be guided by an inner sense of right and wrong, and if we are courageous enough to follow that inner voice, may find a deeper meaning of honor.  


So I ask the group, what is honor?  And bonus question… is it possible to develop a sense of honor in our military leadership so that they never live with regrets?   


Picture is with a Frozin Chosin Vet at one of my events last year in Maryland where I spoke on courage. He reminded me why it’s important to keep fighting.  


RAH

Stu

1,182 views9 comments

9 תגובות


Kate Williamson
Kate Williamson
27 במאי

Honor is doing what it right, especially in the times in which it requires going against all odds and group think to do so.


Directly below from the Office of Special Council on Whistleblower Protections, what Lt. Colonel Scheller did is not only protected—but encouraged to save lives and taxpayer money. Strange to see him still having to request his pension when on top of it already making logical sense that he spoke up about these wrongdoings, there’s further video documentation showing those wrongdoings, and General McKenzie finally in his own words saying it also.


Whistleblower Protections:


“KNOW YOUR RIGHTS WHEN REPORTING WRONGS


Whistleblower disclosures can save lives as well as billions of taxpayer dollars. They play a critical role…


לייק

Charles Wemyss
Charles Wemyss
06 בפבר׳

Lt. Colonel Scheller, one can only hope you have a "fair" hearing. Give it your best and give them Hell. (carefully) As to the question or issue of honor, it is a critical element of the ethos of the Marine Corps and an absolute and nonnegotiable for US Marine Corps Officers. Sadly as you know all too well, we have a current crop of very bad apples in senior positions, 06's and above, who have become part of the NCR National Capital Region, they did a short stint as company grade officers in the FMF, then went on to various schools, OSO duty, NROTC, AWS, etc, after field grade promotion they may have gone back to the Fleet briefly, but…

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David Lee Foster
David Lee Foster
05 בפבר׳

  Perhaps a good place to start is viewing honor for what it is: an abstract concept. A terrorist may occupy a position of honor among his/her cohorts and a patriot may garner honor in defeating that very person. Would you agree that “honor” changes in the eyes of others? Hence, are you trying to change others’ perceptions of your actions? I would say “where’s the honor” in that?

   As Marines, we know honor in a different context; esprit de corps, in “duty, honor, and commitment”, and in a code of conduct. Do not expect civilians or even other branches to embrace that notion; they might, but it’s not as Marines.

   Not following an unjust order is not…

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Brad Mueller
Brad Mueller
03 בפבר׳

If you have it there's no need to explain it. It shows in your behavior. If you don't have it no amount of explaining will help you understand it. It shows in your behavior.

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Brian Amend
Brian Amend
01 בפבר׳

Honor is a clean conscience when that conscience is attuned to and formed by what is noble and honorable. It is what allows one to shave in a mirror without looking away and to not lie awake at night wondering why everything good in life seems more an annoyance and a vexation rather than a boon. True honor will stand before God to whom all glory and honor is due because one chose to align oneself with God’s existence, which is true, merciful, and just and therefore worthy of honor and glory.

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