CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — While many Americans on Okinawa feel strongly — pro and con — about the restrictions imposed during the indefinite “period of reflection,” some are afraid to speak up.

And they might have cause to be concerned, according a spouse of a servicemember who claims she is being threatened with having to move back to the States because she spoke to a reporter concerning the restrictions.

“My husband’s command sent out an e-mail saying spouses cannot speak out — that by complaining, Americans are not showing a united front,” she said, asking that her name not be used because she feared further repercussions.

The period of reflection was set Feb. 20 by Marine Lt. Gen. Richard Zilmer, the senior U.S. officer on Okinawa, after two Marines were arrested by Okinawa police and accused in separate alcohol-fueled crimes. Those incidents followed the alleged rape of a 14-year-old Okinawa girl by a Marine a week earlier. That Marine was released by Japanese police Friday after prosecutors decided not to seek an indictment. A U.S. soldier also is under investigation for an alleged Feb. 17 rape.

The restrictions curtail all off-base travel unless it is authorized. The policy applies to all active-duty servicemembers and Defense Department civilians, as well as their families whether they live on or off base.

The restrictions, which Zilmer is to reassess Monday, also apply to Marine bases at Iwakuni and Camp Fuji in mainland Japan.

The military spouse said she had expressed her frustrations about living off base and being restricted.

“Last night I spoke to the base inspector and told him I spoke to [Stars and Stripes] and he said, ‘That’s your right, freedom of speech.’ But now I’ve been told by my husband who was told by his major that they can take action against me, including possibly making me return to the U.S.,” she said. “I’m pissed. At first I was just frustrated. Now I’m pissed.”

In a separate incident, a senior airman on Kadena Air Base sent an e-mail to Stripes on Wednesday about his feelings concerning the period of reflection and the resulting restriction.

The next day he called the paper and asked not to have the message or name used.

“I sent a copy to my command and I was told I was supposed to go through public affairs,” he said. “Now I’m being told I’m not allowed to say anything, that I’d face punitive action for saying anything.”

Marine officials deny any action has been taken against anyone who has violated the restriction order or has spoken to the media.

“Servicemembers have First Amendment rights of free speech, but within limitations set by DOD policy,” the Marine Corps Public Affairs office on Okinawa stated in response to a Stripes query. “Family members and civilians have First Amendment rights to speak to the press, and it would be inappropriate to restrict those rights. We are unaware of any such efforts to restrict anyone’s First Amendment right.”

Concerning the restriction, the statement read: “We are aware of no specific cases of administrative sanctions taken against civilians or family members as a result of violation of the Period of Reflection.”

Civilian attorney Annette M. Eddie-Callagain, a former Air Force legal officer, said she has received “many” inquires from Americans on Okinawa who feel their constitutional rights are being violated.

“But what I tell them isn’t what they want to hear,” she said. “Many of the rights you have as an American go away when you join or work for the military, especially overseas. The military has an obligation, especially when hosted in a foreign country, to make sure they have control over their people.”

She tells them they have freedom to speak out and write their representatives in Congress, but they have to “remember they are sponsored by the military.”

“And the military can revoke sponsorship at any time,” she said. “If they say don’t talk to the media — then you can’t. Command sponsorship is a privilege, not a right.”

The spouse on Friday said she is “on pins and needles now wondering what’s going to happen” about her situation and what action her husband’s command might take.

“He told me they’re looking at me as a risk,” she said. “I’m just totally blown away about this.”

What are your thoughts about the recent allegations of servicemember misconduct on Okinawa and U.S. command responses to them Japanwide? E-mail your opinions to:

So what exactly can you say?

Department of Defense Directive 1325.6 states that the “servicemembers right of expression should be preserved to the maximum extent possible, consistent with good order and discipline and national security.” However, it further states that “no commander should be indifferent to conduct that, if allowed to proceed unchecked, would destroy the effectiveness of his or her unit.”

“Members of the military have the right to say or to write what they think, up to a point,” the National Lawyers Guild Military Law Task Force states on its Web site at

“They can’t say things that encourage violence (other than as part of authorized military operations) or urge others to violate military regulations,” it says. “Article 88 of the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) makes it a crime for a commissioned officer to use ‘contemptuous words’ against the President, Vice-President, Secretary of Defense, and other specified high government officials. Enlisted members can be prosecuted under Article 134 for using similar words.”

The words have to be “to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, or conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.”

— David Allen

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