Idaho congressional candidate Vaughn Ward, who is a major in the Marine reserves, was recently told by the Marine Corps that he violated a Pentagon directive by wearing his military uniform in a political campaign Internet advertisement. In the ad, Vaughn is shown wearing camouflage and body armor with his rifle at his side.
This is an important lesson for political campaign candidates who are veterans or who are currently serving in the United States Army Reserves, National Guard, Coast Guard, Navy or Air Force Reserves.
While military law doesn’t explicitly forbid active military members from using a picture of themselves in uniform on political campaign ads, the Pentagon does require that the ads have “prominent and clearly displayed disclaimers that neither the military information nor photographs imply endorsement by the Department of Defense or their particular Military Department.”
Additionally, the directive also prohibits images of candidates “in uniform as the primary graphic representation” in campaign material.
Veterans who are no longer active members of the military don’t need to worry about including this disclaimer on their campaign materials if they include an old picture of themselves in uniform. You shouldn’t, however, try to design commercials, fliers, brochures or advertisements in a way that is intended to trick voters into thinking that you’re still an active member of the United States military.
Political candidates running in local elections have every right to be proud of their military service and mention it in their campaign literature and advertising. Still, make sure that you take care to follow the directives of the Pentagon if you’re still an active member of the Army, Air Force, Navy or Marines . . . and don’t deceive anyone into thinking you’re still active if you aren’t.