The U.S. Military Academy released a statement Tuesday after a recent graduate posted photos of himself with pro-communist messages hidden under his uniform and dress cap while still a cadet.
The photos, posted by 2nd Lt. Spenser Rapone, show the then-cadet posing with a Che Guevara t-shirt under his uniform and “communism will win” written under his cap at his graduation from the academy in May.
“Second Lieutenant Rapone‘s actions in no way reflect the values of the U.S. Military Academy or the U.S. Army,” the statement from West Point said.
Rapone, who describes himself as an Army infantry officer in his medium.com profile, first posted a photo of himself on Sunday in support of pre-game national anthem protests all over the NFL.
The lieutenant is assigned to the 10th Mountain Division, who said in a statement to Army Times that while they support freedom of speech for soldiers, they draw the line at political statements made in uniform.
“The 10th Mountain Division not only supports free speech, it trains every day to ensure our nation has the ability to protect it at all cost,” Lt. Col. Tonya Stokes said. “That being said, when our soldiers are in uniform, politics must be set aside. Our uniform represents every corner of our nation and it cannot be used to promote any single ideology.”
Rapone followed up his original post with another on Monday.
“As figures of public trust, members of the military must exhibit exemplary conduct and are prohibited from engaging in certain expressions of political speech in uniform,” the statement said.
Per Defense Department regulation, active duty service members are not permitted to promote political parties or candidates while in uniform.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.