Some members of the military were photographed during a visit by Donald Trump with patches on their uniforms that appear to be pro-Trump, The Hill reports. That type of political advocacy is expressly forbidden by the military.
Trump is currently in the midst of a state visit to Japan, and he made time to visit with men and women in uniform aboard the USS Wasp. There, he was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of men and women in uniform.
“Today, the unbreakable resolve of these heroes lives on in every American who wears our great uniform. Each day that you serve on these rolling but beautiful seas, you honor their sacrifice, you carry on their righteous duty, and you continue their noble legacy,” he told the crowd.
Some of the uniformed personnel even showed their support for the president by wearing patches that showed a cartoon image that superficially resembles Trump and that bore a message that is a play on Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan: “Make Aircrew Great Again.”
It’s not unusual for members of military divisions to wear patches with silly or funny messages/depictions. Commanders allow it because it’s a morale boost. However, the problem lies in the fact that, in this case anyway, the patches appear to be partisan political patches, and that’s forbidden by the military.
Some of the sailors aboard the WASP where Trump is now speaking are wearing this patch pic.twitter.com/07LZojqnYH— Noah Bierman (@Noahbierman) May 28, 2019
According to The Balance Careers, men and women in the military are subject to strict rules when it comes to political activity, particularly when it comes to activity while in uniform.
In summary, the Department of Defense encourages uniformed service personnel to participate in the electoral process the same way most Americans do: by voting, by encouraging others to vote, or even by serving as an election judge (though not in uniform).
However, members of the military are expressly forbidden from engaging in what the Defense Department called “partisan” political activity; that is, “activity supporting or relating to candidates representing, or issues specifically identified with, national or State political parties and associated or ancillary organizations.”
In other words, a member of the military cannot give even the slightest impression that he or she is advocating for a certain politician or for a political cause, especially not while wearing the uniform.
Whether or not these servicemen and women violated that policy will be up to their commanders to decide. It may very well be that the patches are considered humorous satire and not political advocacy.