U.S. Marine Who Wore Uniform at Anti-War Rally Generates Large Crowd of Supporters at Hearing

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Supporters of a Marine who could be discharged early because he wore his uniform during an anti-war protest turned out at a hearing for him Monday.

Cpl. Adam Kokesh, a member of the Iraq Veterans Against the War, went before an administrative separation board at the Marine Corps Mobilization Command as several people stood outside in front of a bus painted with anti-war slogans, including "Bring Them Home Now" and "What Noble Cause?"

Kokesh, 25, took part in an anti-war protest in Washington in March. When he was identified in a photo caption in The Washington Post, a superior officer sent him a letter saying he might have violated a rule prohibiting troops from wearing uniforms without authorization.

Kokesh responded with a letter than contained an obscenity.

Kokesh is a member of the Individual Ready Reserve, which consists mainly of those who have left active duty but still have time remaining on their eight-year military obligations. His service is due to end June 18.

Kokesh had already received an honorable discharge from active duty before he was photographed at the protest. That honorable discharge cannot be revoked. Monday's hearing was to decide whether he should be discharged from the reserves and, if so, with what type of discharge.

Kokesh said during a demonstration on Sunday that any decision made by the board won't stop him from protesting the war, telling a crowd of about 100 that freedom of speech must be protected.

"If it is not safe for a combat veteran to come home and speak his mind, then it is not safe for anyone," he said.

Kokesh argues that he was not representing the military at the protest in Washington, and he made that clear by removing his name tag and other military insignia from his uniform.

His attorney, Mike Lebowitz, said at least three other veterans have been investigated because of their involvement at demonstrations.

Kokesh was a reservist in an artillery unit when he became disillusioned with the war during his first tour. He said he believes there is no way for Iraq to achieve rule of law with a foreign military imposing martial law.

Lebowitz said if his discharge status is changed, Kokesh said he could lose some health benefits and be forced to repay about $10,800 he received to obtain his undergraduate degree on the GI Bill.