KANSAS CITY, Missouri - A Marine Corps veteran of the Iraq war said Sunday in Kansas City that the threat of an other-than-honorable discharge would not stop him from protesting against the war.
Marine Cpl. Adam Kokesh, who has already received an honorable discharge from active duty but remains part of the inactive military reserves, has been charged with being photographed wearing fatigues, with military badges removed, during a protest of the Iraq war.
A military panel in Kansas City is scheduled to hold a hearing Monday over whether Kokesh should be discharged from the service. One possible outcome is an other-than-honorable discharge.
Kokesh, 25, arrived in Kansas City today and went directly to a rally in support of him near the J.C. Nichols fountain on the Country Club Plaza. There he told roughly 100 people that freedom of speech was an important principle that needed to 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 told the crowd.
The military's efforts to silence him was political abuse, he said. While he could lose military benefits if he received an other-than-honorable discharge, he intended to continue to speak against the war.
"I'm fulfilling the moral values my mother instilled in me," he said.
Kokesh recently picked up the support of the Veterans of Foreign Wars when the group's national commander said the Marine Corps needed to "exercise a little common sense" and put an end to the matter.
Kokesh arrived in Kansas City on the "Yellow Rose of Texas Peace Bus," which has visited 28 states over the last two years with "Bring Them Home Now" painted on its side.
The rally in Kansas City was sponsored by the Kansas City Iraq Task Force and the American Friends Service Committee, two groups that oppose the Iraq war. Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War also attended.
Among those speaking was Liam Madden, another Marine Corps veteran of the Iraq war who is now in the inactive military reserves. He said he has been told that he was being charged with making disloyal statements and wearing a military uniform during a protest of the war. His military hearing is to be scheduled.
It's important for veterans, especially with their experience in Iraq, to speak out, he said.
"The war in Iraq is a war crime," Madden said.
© 2007 Kansas City Star and wire service sources.