Air Force veteran sues after being pulled from ceremony mid-speech
An Air Force veteran is suing the service after being pulled off the stage at a retirement ceremony for a friend in the middle of his speech.
Senior Master Sgt. Oscar Rodriguez was invited to speak at the retirement ceremony of a friend 2 years ago. But Rodriguez ran afoul of the politically correct air force command when he invoked God while reading a traditional flag folding speech.
Video shows several NCO's pulling Rodriguez off the stage.
The Air Force says that Rodriguez's participation in the ceremony had been "disapproved" by the commander. But the retiree, Master Sgt. Chuck Roberson, says he invited Rodriguez to give the speech, reflecting the values he fought for.
"I was removed from the speech because my script mentioned God. Air force officials did not want me to utter those words," he told Fox News. "There was no direct communication between the Air Force and myself to forbid me from making this speech."
The U.S. Air Force declined to comment Monday on pending litigation. In a statement released last year, officials said, "Evidence indicated Mr. Rodriguez was removed by members of the squadron because he attempted to participate in the ceremony even though his participation had been disapproved by the hosting squadron commander... When it became clear that Mr. Rodriguez intended to act inconsistent with the commander's restrictions he was removed by several squadron NCOs (noncommissioned officers). The inquiry found no evidence that the NCOs were motivated to impair Mr. Rodriguez's constitutional rights of freedom of speech or religion."
At the time of the event, a spokeswoman from the reserve told Fox News the confrontation stemmed from "an unplanned participation" at the event.
"Rodriguez ignored numerous requests to respect the Air Force prescribed ceremony and unfortunately was forcibly removed," a Travis official said in a statement to Fox News following the incident.
Rodriguez claimed his recitation of an old version of the "Flag Folding Ceremony Air Force Script," which was later scrubbed because of religious references, prompted his ouster. Rodriguez delivered the speech at the request of Master Sgt. Chuck Roberson, who was retiring from the U.S. Air Force after 33 years of service.
"Let us pray that God will reflect with admiration the willingness of one nation in her attempts to rid the world of tyranny, oppression, and misery," part of the flag-folding speech reads. "It is this one nation under God that we call, with honor, the United States of America."
The speech closes with the words, "God bless our flag. God bless our troops. God bless America."
Even though the Air Force revised the script in 2006, Rodriguez claimed it was his right -- and Roberson's right -- to invoke the older version.
The Air Force admitted to Fox News that Roberson did, indeed, have the right to request a reading of the old script containing references to God:
According to a U.S. Air Force official, flag folding scripts that are religious in nature can be used for retirement ceremonies. "I can't speak to the specific incident," Ann Stefanek, an Air Force spokeswoman, told Fox News in 2016. "[But] Air Force personnel may use a flag folding ceremony script that is religious for retirement ceremonies."
Stefanek continued, "Since retirement ceremonies are personal in nature, the script preference for a flag folding ceremony is at the discretion of the individual being honored and represents the member's views, not those of the Air Force."
Seems pretty clear to me. Some small minded, politically correct commander wanted Rodriguez to conform to the "new" Air Force and not mention a diety. What makes this policy ridiculous is that when a pilot is flying in combat and he gets lit up by ground based radar, he doesn't utter an entreaty to his commanding officer. He probably prays to God.
The Air Force will settle this case without admitting wrongdoing. And the policy will remain. But instead of conforming to some liberal notion of inclusion and tolerance for other faiths, perhaps the brass should be asking the rank and file whether they want to stop praying to God when the stuff hits the fan and they are in danger of being killed. "There are no atheists in fox holes" is as true today as it was 70 years ago.