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Uniformed soldiers in DNC video on TV raises questions about military endorsements

Two people in U.S. Army uniforms stand beside delegates casting votes for Joe Biden during the Democratic National Convention, Aug. 18, 2020. (YouTube, Screenshot)
August 19, 2020

Two people in U.S. Army uniforms flanked Democratic party delegates from American Samoa as they proceeded to endorse Joe Biden in a virtual roll call vote during Tuesday night’s Democratic National Convention.

Standing behind American Samoa’s two delegates are a pair of men in U.S. Army fatigues and with U.S. Army patches in full display. Military rules prohibit military personnel from wearing military uniforms during political events.

The American Samoan delegation can be seen delivering their endorsement at the 9-minute mark.

One of the American Samoan delegates appeared to gesture to one of the soldiers during her endorsement comments and said, “Joe Biden honors our service and we trust him to support our community.”

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The Pentagon policy on military endorsements states, “Under DOD Directive 1344.10, members of the armed forces who are on active duty are permitted to express their personal opinions on political candidates, make a monetary contribution to a campaign, sign a petition to place a candidate’s name on the ballot, and attend a political event as a spectator. Members on active duty may not participate in partisan activities such as soliciting or engaging in partisan fundraiser activities, serving as the sponsor of a partisan club, or speaking before a partisan gathering. In addition, all military members, including National Guard and Reserve forces, are prohibited from wearing military uniforms at political campaign events.”

“American Samoa delivers its delegate votes at the #DNCConvention with what appears to be two uniformed service members in the background, which is potentially a problem,” Military Times deputy editor and veteran Leo Shane III tweeted, with a screenshot from the delegate vote.

A DNC official told ABC News that each delegation was meant to showcase an area of interest as they delivered their votes during the virtual roll call.

“Each state was asked to highlight issues and values that matter most and the American Samoa delegation wanted to highlight their commitment to military service when they filmed their segment,” the official told ABC. The official said, “The composition of that shot was an oversight.”

A Pentagon spokesman reaffirmed the Pentagon’s policy against political activity in uniform.

“All members of the Armed Forces, including active duty members, members of the reserve component not on active duty, and retired members, are prohibited from wearing military uniforms at political campaign or election events,” the Pentagon spokesman said.

It is unclear if the masked soldiers in the DNC video will face reprimand for their involvement in the video.

American Samoa reportedly does not have an active military presence nor does it have a National Guard, though there is an Army Reserve Center in American Samoa. The unit affiliations of the soldiers in the video could not be discerned from the video.

A U.S. Navy sailor in uniform was criticized by onlookers during a July incident after she got out of her car to yell at a pro-Trump crowd. The sailor, identified as Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Launch/Recovery) 2nd Class Sarah Dudrey, yelled “Fuck Trump” at people in the crowd. After the video of Dudrey’s comments went viral, Navy spokeswoman Melinda Larson said they were investigating the incident and said Dudrey’s commanding officer “will make a determination on what actions are warranted.”

In February, Defense Secretary Mark Esper released an election-year reminder memo for service members to avoid political activity while in uniform.