Edited Transcript of a Portion of the GI Rights Hotline Counselors’ Report 10/29/2022 

We are currently working with conscientious objectors at various stages of the application process. One Marine I have been working with was recently approved for discharge at every level. But in the final stages, the general that signed off on the final endorsement recommended that he get a general discharge under honorable conditions instead of an honorable discharge.  The biggest difference between those two characterizations is eligibility for the GI Bill. So the general’s recommendation could cost the applicant tens of thousands of dollars in education benefits that he already earned.

Now this applicant would be content to never get another penny from the military. For him, it isn’t really about the money. But it bothers him that somebody is saying in the recommendations that he did something that wasn’t honorable.

In the application process, the general that makes the endorsement is supposed to share their reasoning. This general wrote that the applicant had no other disciplinary issues in his record. Now, that already looks biased because conscientious objection isn’t a disciplinary issue. The general also said it appears his change in belief has had an adverse effect on his performance.

I talked to the applicant about his performance evaluations, and they’ve actually improved since he applied for conscientious objection. In the comments on his evaluation it says he’s “driven by a strong moral compass.” He’s “exceeding expectations,” he’s “above average” in every category, he’s “dependable.” None of that sounds like performance that has been adversely affected.

This applicant was on the verge of processing out of the Marines. He had maybe 4 days or so left, but he still wanted to see what we could do about this. So I dug through the regulations, and I managed to get to the legal people handling his case. I explained to them that by regulation, the applicant was supposed to have a copy of the general’s recommendation and have a right to write a rebuttal to it. The clerk agreed to take a look and asked us to send him something explaining the problem.

We submitted a statement to a representative of the commandant of the Marine Corps saying the endorsement was not processed according to regulation. To our joy they called him back in at the end of the day to notify him that he’s being extended so he can exercise his right to submit a rebuttal, which we wrote out. Our rebuttal pointed out that the general’s endorsement has to be based on fact. There is no evidence of any adverse effect on the applicant’s work performance. We pointed out what they wrote in his recommendations and evaluations, and how they’ve explained it. Despite the extra work involved, the applicant and I talked about how on one level it was fun: “After all, how many marines get a chance to argue with a general?” And we crossed our fingers and hoped for a fair consideration of the evidence.

[Update: 2.5 weeks later we heard back. The general signed a second memo saying that the initial characterization of service would remain. You might wonder how he justified his recommendation in the absence of any supporting facts. He used a common method of those who wield power. It’s called “no explanation whatsoever” or “silence on the matter.” I can’t say I’m surprised, but the injustice still stings. There are other strong avenues of appeal still open, but these will have to wait until after the discharge.]