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Marine who Trump brought on stage at rally now under military investigation for it

Lance Cpl. Hunter Clark appears on stage next to former President Donald Trump during a rally in Georgia on Sept. 25, 2021. (YouTube screenshot)
September 30, 2021

A Marine who says he saved a baby during the evacuation from Kabul, Afghanistan by pulling it over the wall of the Hamid Karzai International Airport is now under investigation for appearing on stage at a rally for Donald Trump last week, a Marine spokesman confirmed to American Military News. Task & Purpose first reported the investigation on Thursday.

Lance Cpl. Hunter Clark was one of the Marines deployed on the ground during the civilian evacuation efforts in Kabul during the final days of the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan. On Saturday, September 25, Clark appeared on stage with former President Trump during a campaign-style rally in Georgia. Now Clark is being investigated by his military unit over whether he violated the military’s ban on active-duty troops engaging in partisan political activity.

“The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) has initiated a command investigation regarding LCpl Hunter Clark’s attendance at the event last weekend to determine if any DoD policies were violated,” Capt. Kelton J Cochran, a spokesman for the 24th MEU said in a statement to American Military News. “Any details pertaining to this incident are not releasable while the investigation is being conducted.”

Clark did not specify when he pulled a baby over the Kabul airport wall, though in an additional communication, Cochran said Clark was not the particular Marine who appeared in a video that began circulating on August 19. Cochran told Task & Purpose the 24th MEU cannot confirm if Clark is one of the other Marines in that video. Cochran also noted there were several cases in which Afghans handed their children to U.S. troops during the evacuations from Kabul.

During the rally, Clark was recognized by Trump for his service during the Kabul evacuation.

“We’re also honored to be joined by one of the Marines who bravely served in Kabul during the withdrawal and helped evacuate children over the airport and over the airport wall,” Trump told his gathered supporters. “You saw him, he did a great job, Lance Corporal Hunter Ian Clark. Lance Corporal get up here.”

Clark, who was dressed in civilian clothes, appeared on the stage for about 40 seconds, during which time Trump asked him to speak to the crowd. Clark spoke for about 25 seconds.

“Hey, my name is Lance Corporal Hunter Clark, and I’m here from Warner Robins, Georgia,” Clark said. “I am the guy that pulled the baby over the wall, and it’s definitely probably one of the greatest things I’ve done in my entire life. I just want to thank all the support from all y’all. It really means a lot and I’m glad to be home now.”

After his brief comments, Clark shook hands with Trump and then walked off the stage.

Department of Defense regulations set specific parameters for the kinds of political speech U.S. military service members can make.

“Active duty personnel may not engage in partisan political activities and all military personnel should avoid the inference that their political activities imply or appear to imply DoD sponsorship, approval, or endorsement of a
political candidate, campaign, or cause,” the DoD in a 2020 statement offering guidance on political activity. “Members on active duty may not campaign for a partisan candidate, engage in partisan fundraising activities, serve as an officer of a partisan club, or speak before a partisan gathering. Active duty members may, however, express their personal
opinions on political candidates and issues, make monetary contributions to a political campaign or organization, and attend political events, in their personal capacity, as a spectator when not in uniform.”

DoD Directive 1344.10, which lists the specific DoD regulations on political activity, states service members can not “speak before a partisan political gathering, including any gathering that promotes a partisan political party, candidate, or cause.”

Trump ran for the presidency in 2020 and has hinted at another potential 2024 political run, but has not yet declared his candidacy. Since the 2020 election, Trump has held rallies similar to the ones he held during the presidential campaign season and has used his platform to criticize his political opponents.

Clark’s appearance at the Trump rally is not the only time a service member’s actions have raised questions about the politicization of the military. During the 2020 Democratic National Convention, two uniformed U.S. Army Reserve soldiers stood alongside American Samoa’s Democratic Party leaders as they endorsed then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden for office. Those soldiers ultimately saw no disciplinary action, but their supervisor did receive an unspecified reprimand.

This story was updated to include additional details from a Marine spokesman about Clark’s potential involvement in rescuing a baby at the Kabul airport.