Democratic convention roll call featuring uniformed service members raises questions

Uniformed service members appeared for American Samoa’s turn for the roll call during the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, sparking questions about whether their appearance may have violated military rules.

Two junior enlisted Army soldiers stood on either side of American Samoa’s delegates, despite rules stating that military personnel cannot participate in political events while in uniform.

ABC News first raised the criticism on Tuesday night. 

A defense official told the outlet that the soldiers’ presence raised questions about how they became a part of the convention.

U.S. military personnel are required to be apolitical while in uniform, but they can back candidates and attend rallies without their uniforms.

The soldiers’ name tags were clearly visible on Tuesday night, but they wore masks over their faces due to the coronavirus pandemic. It is unclear what unit they belong to, as American Samoa does not have a strong Army presence or National Guard.

But the territory does have an Army Reserve Center with a few hundred Army reservists, ABC News noted.

The Department of Defense said in a statement to The Hill early Wednesday that all members of the armed forces “are prohibited from wearing military uniforms at political campaign or election events.”

A Democratic convention official said in a statement that the appearance of the service members during the convention was “an oversight.”

“The composition of that shot was an oversight,” the official told The Hill. “Each state was asked to highlight issues and values that matter most and the American Samoa delegation wanted to highlight their commitment to military service when they filmed their segment.”

The Democratic Party platform, which is set to be approved by party leaders at the convention, states that the party “will never use active duty soldiers as political props, and we will never send military forces to suppress Americans exercising their constitutional rights,” an indirect hit at President Trump.

Updated at 11:13 a.m.

Tags 2020 conventions 2020 Democratic convention American Samoa Army Democratic Party Donald Trump Military military service members

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