A U.S. Marine featured in an iconic photo lifting an Afghan infant to safety above a barbed-wire barrier outside the international airport in Kabul in August is now under investigation by the military after he attended a rally held by former President Donald Trump in Georgia last month.
The actions of Lance Corporal Hunter Clark have been placed under review after he attended the rally on Saturday, appearing on stage with the former president, according to Marine Corps officials, Task & Purpose first reported.
“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,” said Capt. Kelton J Cochran, a spokesman for the 24th MEU. He added that the unit has yet to confirm if Clark was actually the Marine who hoisted the infant from the arms of an adult believed to be a parent.
“Any details pertaining to this incident are not releasable while the investigation is being conducted,” Cochran added.
The outlet said that Clark appeared on stage for less than a minute at Trump’s “Save America” rally, in which he claimed was “the guy that pulled the baby over the wall,” adding “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,” he continued.
Clark was not in uniform at the time of his appearance, Task & Purpose noted. Also, he was not stumping for the former president nor did appear to be campaigning for any particular candidate.
“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 said as he invited Clark on stage during the Sept. 25 rally. The former president went on to announce that he had reserved “13 empty seats of honor” on the front row of the event to denote the 11 Marines. two U.S. Army soldiers, and a Navy corpsman who were all killed in a suicide bombing attack outside the airport on Aug. 26.
“You saw him, he did a great job, Lance Cpl. Hunter Ian Clark. Lance corporal get up here!” Trump said as he brought Clark on stage.
According to a Feb. 19., 2008, Defense Department directive regarding political activities, service members may not “in partisan political fundraising activities…, rallies, conventions (including making speeches in the course thereof), management of campaigns, or debates, either on one’s own behalf or on that of another, without respect to uniform or inference or appearance of official sponsorship, approval, or endorsement.”
“Participation includes more than mere attendance as a spectator,” the directive continues. It adds that service members also may not “speak before a partisan political gathering, including any gathering that promotes a partisan political party, candidate, or cause.”
The investigation comes as the military appears to be focusing more on the political activities of its members. The investigation into Clark comes as Marine Lt. Col. Matthew Scheller was relieved of his command and imprisoned at Camp Lejuene, N.C., for publicly chastising senior Pentagon leaders in the wake of the suicide bombing at the Kabul airport.
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