Someone sent me the following claim: a US Army person who had met with President Obama had suggested that he was wearing his American Flag lapel pin upside down. Obama had the woman removed from her assignment and demoted because she had corrected the President.

Example of the claim:

A few weeks ago a young female Marine Staff Sergeant (one of very few chosen for this post) was serving with HMX-1, the Presidential Helicopter Squadron. She had just finished her tour as a Drill Instructor and is/was obviously a squared away Marine that was on a fast track and who planned on making the Marine Corps her career. I am assuming that she excelled on the Drill Field which landed her the "choice" assignment with HMX-1. A few weeks ago she was assigned to the flight crew and after giving our illustrious President her best "Main Gater" hand salute, she respectfully advised the President that the American flag pin on his lapel was on upside down, you got to remember this young lady has been around for a while and had just finished her tour as a Drill Instructor, I have no doubt that she advised him in the proper way....do you?? Anyway, President Obama relieved her on the spot. Apparently he doesn't like being told that he doing something wrong, especially by lowly military personnel...WTF. That man just ruined a young lady's career when all she was trying to do was prevent him from being embarrassed....what a gem. This info comes from a very,very reliable source who has the "inside" scoop on the Marine Detachment at HMX-1. Is he really the best man for "Commander in Chief"????? What a joke. I am sure other Marines will be "lining up" for that assignment now.

Is this rumor true?

  • I added an example. Not quite sure if that makes it notable enough. It is going to be difficult to disprove the claim: it is practically unfalsifiable.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented May 18, 2012 at 5:11
  • 2
    what i really like is the claim that its practically unfalsifiable, when it was falsified in a number of ways below. My rule of thumb: anything about Obama and disrespecting America in anyway, is a big fat lie. Or, not disrespectful at all. Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 17:37

2 Answers 2


I submitted this story to Snopes, and was notified that today they released an article about the incident, claiming it is verified to be false, in short because no female member of HMX-1 was in a position to have met Obama under the circumstances described in the story.

The most relevant bit from the Snopes article:

We contacted the U.S. Marine Corps about the rumor, and here is what the media officer tasked with handling our query reported back to us:

I spoke with representatives from HMX-1 in regards to your query on the supposed firing of a female Staff Sergeant from HMX-1. HMX-1 representatives confirmed that there is no truth to the story.

I forwarded the representatives the copy of the story you sent in your initial inquiry and I was told that no Staff Sergeants have been relieved or fired at HMX-1 and they do not have a female Staff Sergeant at HMX-1 that has been to the drill field.


First, let me clarify some distinctions; a Marine is certainly not a Soldier. Soldier is Army, Airman is Air Force, and a Sailor is Navy.

Second, the story is false. As someone with an 'inside scoop', the President wouldn't (and cannot) 'relieve' an enlisted military personnel on the spot.

The closest I could find to this story is this article.

A 26-year-old sergeant and Iraq veteran is in the process of being dismissed from the Marine Corps after making "political statements" about the commander-in-chief on Facebook.

Such comments are considered detrimental to "good order and discipline" under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

It is just that, enlisted personnel are under a contract with the government to serve the time period they signed for unless violating a Punitive Article of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, medical separation, or a few other special circumstances. And for every circumstance, there is a board of high-ranking, competent personnel who make the decision to separate an individual. If the President had in fact said such a thing, it would be in direct violation of the Marine ethos of being able to correct anyone, regardless of rank (In the correct manner, of course).

I'm going to chalk this up to President-bashing, which has been gaining increased momentum over the past decade. The likelihood that the President of the United States (who is ALWAYS shown in the world's eye) would wear the American Flag pin upside-down, which is disrespectful of our country in almost every way, is low. He has teams of people to look over his appearance before stepping out and into the public's view.

If anything like his had happened, it would be all over the military press (Yes, we have a press).

EDIT: I have a few more references and points to make (For quality assurance, of course);

First, on the unverified Wikipedia page:

Below are some of the most common reasons for discharge:

  • Expiration of Term of Service (ETS)
  • Reaching the maximum age limit
  • High Year Tenure (reaching the maximum allowable time-in-grade, and not selected for promotion)
  • Disability, Dependency, or Hardship
  • Pregnancy/Parenthood
  • Personality Disorder
  • Condition not a disability
  • Physical or Mental Conditions that interfere with military service resulting in being placed on the Temporary or Permanent
  • Disability Retirement Lists
  • Convenience of The Government/Secretarial Authority (voluntary redundancy due to funding cutbacks, for example)
  • Unsuitability
  • Misconduct - Minor Disciplinary Infractions
  • Misconduct - Drug Abuse with and without administrative review board
  • Misconduct - Commission of a serious offense
  • Entry-Level Performance and Conduct
  • Resignation (available to officers only)
  • Reduction in Force (RIF)
  • UnCharacterized if discharged within the first 180 days of service and no misconduct found in service members record
  • Punitive Discharges - Bad Conduct Discharge issued by either Special Court Martial or General Court Martial only. Dishonorable
  • Discharge issued by a General Court Martial only

This all seems very vague, though what isn't covered here is likely covered underneath an Administrative Separation Board for review.

Second, this page goes over the process pretty extensively, specifically

Once the commander receives the attachments from the respondent, he/she determines whether or not to proceed with the discharge proceedings. If the commander elects to proceed an administrative discharge board is convened (if required). If the board is not required, the commander forwards the package to the approval authority (usually the installation commander) for final approval or disapproval.

The President would certainly have to go through the proper military channels in order to separate a service member.

  • 3
    @nico, I respectfully disagree on two platforms. First, the President is always in the public's view, and it isn't always his beliefs that matter - more of the beliefs of those he is in service of (The American People). Second, the American Flag is a symbol of everything he has dedicated his life to. Anyone who is in service of this country view the flag as more than just cloth, it's the reason for existence and ultimate sacrifice. Commented May 18, 2012 at 11:43
  • 22
    * a Marine is certainly not a Soldier. Soldier is Army, Airman is Air Force, and a Sailor is Navy.* I would love to see a reference for this. A soldier is commonly used as a generic term that is used to refer to any member of the armed forces of any country.
    – Chad
    Commented May 18, 2012 at 14:40
  • 11
    I think splitting hairs over the term "soldier" is a bit silly, though. Even if it has a specific meaning within the U.S. Armed Forces, it often means anyone who wears a uniform and carries a weapon. In many countries, there is little to no distinction between even "police," "soldier," and "body guard"--they are all "soldiers" (some hired by the gov't, some hired by private individuals). And if Obama had fired a policeman under identical circumstances, I would consider that corroboration of the claim.
    – Flimzy
    Commented May 18, 2012 at 16:57
  • 3
    @Flimzy-- that sounds like an argument for English.SE-- I've never heard of or thought of a policeman as a 'soldier'. A 'policeman' polices, or upholds the law; a soldier may act in that capacity (ie, military police), but in general, that's not their main purpose.
    – mmr
    Commented May 18, 2012 at 17:02
  • 4
    @mmr: As I said, it depends on location. In Mexico, the federal police and the military have very overlapping responsibilities (especially in response to the drug wars). The police often wear full green camo and carry automatic weapons. Are they engaged in police or military actions? There's little difference in many cases.
    – Flimzy
    Commented May 18, 2012 at 17:51

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