Military officials are investigating a Marine for speaking last weekend at a political rally in Georgia held by former President Donald Trump.
The Department of Defense and Marine Corps bar active-duty troops from participating in “partisan political” activities. Military personnel cannot “speak before a partisan political gathering, including any gathering that promotes a partisan political party, candidate, or cause,” according to policy.
Lance Cpl. Hunter Clark spoke for less than a minute at Trump’s event as the Republican former president stood by at the “Save America Rally” at the Georgia state fairgrounds in Perry last Saturday. Clark introduced himself as the “guy that pulled the baby over the wall” outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, last month during the chaotic exit of U.S. personnel.
Some media outlets have identified Clark as the man who lifted a baby up over the wall in a videotaped scene and photograph that went viral. But Clark’s command would not confirm to military news outlet Tasks & Purpose that he helped transfer any baby or child over the wall. And a command spokesperson said that Clark was not the Marine who lifted up the baby in the now famous photo.
“Regarding the viral photo that began circulating around August 20, 2021, the Marine identified in that particular image was not LCpl Clark,” Capt. Kelton Cochran, a spokesperson for the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, said in a statement, CNN reported Thursday.
Clark, however, was at the site with about 6,000 other troops, and there were many other incidents of babies and toddlers helped over the barriers by U.S. military personnel, noted Task & Purpose.
Clark’s command is now focused on his participation in the Trump rally.
“The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit has initiated a command investigation regarding LCpl Hunter Clark’s attendance at the event last weekend to determine if any DoD policies were violated,” Cochran said in a statement, Tasks & Purpose reported.
Cochran said no other details would be released during the investigation.
Clark, a native of Georgia, did not appear in uniform at the rally, nor did he endorse any candidate, party or cause. But Clark spoke from behind a lectern with a sign that included the name “President Donald Trump,” his slogan “Save America” and a phone number to text for donations. (See the video clip up top.)
The rally was clearly partisan, and it featured Trump attacking President Joe Biden for the upheaval during the U.S. military exit from Afghanistan and railing about his defeat in the 2020 presidential election, baselessly claiming yet again that it was “rigged.” Trump also endorsed and introduced candidates at the Georgia event.
In his brief comments, Clark called helping to save the baby “definitely probably one of the greatest things I’ve done in my entire life.” He added, tearfully: “I just want to thank all the support from all y’all. It really means a lot, and I’m glad to be home now.”
Clark was presented as part of the rally’s show of support for U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Thirteen seats were kept empty in the front row in honor of the 11 Marines, a Navy corpsman and an Army special operations soldier who were killed in the Aug. 26 attack on the airport, Trump announced before introducing Clark.
“You saw him, he did a great job, Lance Cpl. Hunter Ian Clark,” Trump said as he introduced Clark, apparently referring to the scene with the baby that made news around the world. “Lance corporal, get up here!”
Clark could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.
The Afghan baby girl in the famous photo was reunited with her parents, and they’re all now living in Arizona.
Last year, Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, drew criticism when he accompanied Trump on a walk from the White House to a church so the then-president could pose holding up a Bible. Peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters were violently routed from the area by law enforcement to clear the path for Trump and his entourage. Milley later apologized, calling it a “mistake” that regrettably conveyed a message that the military is engaged in domestic politics.
“I should not have been there,” Milley said.
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