A West Point cadet who wore a Che Guevara T-shirt to his graduation and posted a message online saying “communism will win” has been discharged from the US army.
The images Spenser Rapone posted on Twitter from his May 2016 West Point graduation were meant to shock: in one, he opens his dress uniform to expose a T-shirt with a red image of the socialist icon Che Guevara. In another, he raises his fist and flips over his cap to reveal the hand-scrawled message: “Communism will win.”
The images, posted later in 2017, drew vitriol and even death threats. Now the second lieutenant who became known as the “commie cadet” is out of the army with an other-than-honorable discharge.
Top brass at Fort Drum’s 10th Mountain Division accepted Rapone’s resignation on Monday after an earlier reprimand for “conduct unbecoming of an officer”. Rapone said an investigation found he went online to advocate for a socialist revolution and disparage high-ranking officers and US officials. The army said in a statement only that it conducted a full investigation and “appropriate action was taken”.
An unrepentant Rapone summed up the fallout in a tweet on Monday that showed him extending a middle finger at a sign at the entrance to Fort Drum, accompanied by the words: “One final salute.”
“I consider myself a revolutionary socialist,” the 26-year-old said. “I would encourage all soldiers who have a conscience to lay down their arms and join me and so many others who are willing to stop serving the agents of imperialism and join us in a revolutionary movement.”
Rapone said his journey to communism grew out of his experiences as an army ranger in Afghanistan before he was accepted into the US Military Academy. And those views only hardened during his studies of history as one of the academy’s “Long Gray Line”.
He explained that he took the offending selfies at his May 2016 West Point graduation ceremony and kept them to himself until last September, when he tweeted them in solidarity with the NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was taking heat for kneeling for the national anthem to raise awareness of racism.
Many other military personnel also tweeted in favor of Kaepernick, although most were supporting free speech, not communism.
West Point released a statement after Rapone posted the photos, saying his actions “in no way reflect the values of the US Military Academy or the US Army”. And the US senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, called on the secretary of the army to remove Rapone from the officer ranks.