The release of Brittney Griner has caused a lot of controversy in recent days. One would think that the release of a wrongfully detained prisoner in the custody of Putin’s Russia would cause cheer, celebration, and unity. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case, at least with a very vocal minority in America. Those folks have been adamant that Paul Whelan, a person they refer to as a “Marine” — is the one who should have been released.
It is sad and unfortunate that the facts do not line up with their arguments. We break down the “why” below.
Whelan is not a Marine
When people refer to Paul Whelan as a Marine, they are simply wrong. Whelan is not a Marine. The phrase “once a Marine, always a Marine” does not apply to him. The reason is because Whelan received a bad conduct discharge from the Marines. This is similar to a dishonorable discharge. When someone is dishonorably discharged from the Marines, they are separated from the Corps. They cease to be a member. When someone receives a bad conduct discharge from the Marines, the Veterans Administration no longer recognizes them as a veteran. They are ineligible to receive any VA benefits. Whelan tried to appeal the punitive discharge and was denied.
Howard Grant, an actual Marine, described a dishonorable discharge this way. Many Marines we spoke to feel the same way about a bad conduct discharge and other “less than honorable” discharges from the military.
When someone receives a Dishonorable Discharge, it means they have violated the trust that has formed between us. Understanding that we would sacrifice our most valuable possession, our lives, for the good of the Corps comes to a screeching halt when someone does something to betray our trust. Earning a Dishonorable Discharge means someone has done something to dishonor the Marine Corps, their brothers and sisters (aka Marine family), the millions of men and women who served before them, the traditions of the Corps and they also dishonor themselves.
We do not sympathize with these types of people. When someone is diagnosed with cancer, we feel empathy for the person but we have no sympathy for the cancer. We want to eradicate the cancer. We want to save the body but destroy and rid the body of cancer.
A Dishonorable Discharge is a cancer. We don’t want cancer in our ranks and it is separated, segregated and destroyed.
So to answer your question, they are no longer Marines. They are Ex-Marines, not “former” Marines but cancerous, pieces of subhuman garbage that doesn’t deserve to utter the name Marine Corps or reference it in any way, shape or form.
CORRECTION: Whelan technically was given a “bad conduct discharge” and was court-martialed. While not technically the same as a dishonorable discharge, much is similar, including the fact that the government no longer recognizes the person as a veteran. In other words, he is not recognized as a Marine. We originally described his discharge as dishonorable.
Paul Whelan’s family supports Brittney Griner’s release
Simply put, the family is of course disappointed that Paul Whelan wasn’t included in the deal. They understand that there wasn’t a realistic shot of that happening. They are pleased and support that Brittney Griner was released and freed from Russian custody.
Saying “Trump would have gotten Whelan out” is patently false — he didn’t
Trump supporters are claiming their “hero” would have gotten Whelan out. Two big problems with that argument. First, Whelan was incarcerated by Putin in 2018. Trump was POTUS then and did nothing for two years. Also, Trump himself claims that Whelan “would have been let out for the asking” (assuming) when he was in charge — the glaring problem with that is that such a thing never happened. Either Trump never asked, or was denied if he did.
Viktor Bout probably won’t be the “threat” he was as an arms dealer
Another facetious argument some are making about the exchange is the “threat” that Viktor Bout will pose as an arms dealer. The problem with that argument is that Bout will probably not be getting into that racket again. Black market arms dealing is a very secretive trade. Bout is now totally on everyone’s radar. He can expect to have eyes on him for a very long time. Furthermore, anyone in that racket does not want to be “on the radar” and so doing business with him will be avoided. He will probably be as popular with other arms dealers and those looking to buy black market arms as someone in the mafia who testified against other members of that “family.”
Not getting Paul Whelan out does not show President Biden to be “anti-Marine” or military.
As was shown above, Whelan is not a Marine. He was dishonorably discharged. At that point, he is not a Marine. President Biden did get an actual Marine out of wrongful detainment just earlier this year.
Trevor Reed was imprisoned by Russian authorities, like Whelan, since Trump was in office. President Biden secured his release last summer in a similar “1 for 1” prisoner swap that Brittney Griner was freed by. In both cases, it appears that Whelan’s release was never on the table.
To say Biden has something against the Marines or the military is just ridiculous based on events that have actually happened.
The bottom line is that the Brittney Griner release before Christmas is something to be celebrated by all Americans. Celebrating her release does not make someone supportive of marijuana or any other drug. Celebrating her release does not make someone who does not support LGBTQ rights suddenly an advocate for them. Before any of those often divisive issues are even discussed, we are all Americans, as is Brittney Griner. A fellow American is home safe, just in time for Christmas. That is really all that matters right now.