Leader of Naples Marine Corps League criticizes protester’s decision to wear uniform at tea party rally

At a 2008 rally for then Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, North Naples Fire Department firefighter David Willoughby, of Fort Myers, riles up the crowd with his controversial signs about Barack Obama at Germain Arena on Monday, Oct. 6, 2008, in Estero. David Albers/ Staff

Photo by DAVID ALBERS // Buy this photo

At a 2008 rally for then Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, North Naples Fire Department firefighter David Willoughby, of Fort Myers, riles up the crowd with his controversial signs about Barack Obama at Germain Arena on Monday, Oct. 6, 2008, in Estero. David Albers/ Staff

At a 2008 rally for then Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, North Naples Fire Department firefighter David Willoughby, of Fort Myers, riles up the crowd with his controversial signs about Barack Obama at Germain Arena on Monday, Oct. 6, 2008, in Estero. David Albers/ Staff

Photo by DAVID ALBERS // Buy this photo

At a 2008 rally for then Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, North Naples Fire Department firefighter David Willoughby, of Fort Myers, riles up the crowd with his controversial signs about Barack Obama at Germain Arena on Monday, Oct. 6, 2008, in Estero. David Albers/ Staff

Dave Willoughby, a formerly enlisted Marine and North Naples firefighter, participates in a Tax Day demonstration on Thursday, April 15, 2010 in Naples.

Photo by DAVID ALBERS // Buy this photo

Dave Willoughby, a formerly enlisted Marine and North Naples firefighter, participates in a Tax Day demonstration on Thursday, April 15, 2010 in Naples.

Video from NBC-2

— The leader of a local association of Marines added his voice to the controversy surrounding tea party leatherneck Dave Willoughby, criticizing Willoughby’s decision to wear his dress uniform during last week’s Tax Day rally.

Bob Kemp, commandant of the 235-member Naples detachment of the Marine Corps League, a non-profit organization composed of current, former and retired Marines, said Willoughby’s decision politicized the branch. A handful of league members drew his attention to the story, he said.

“Everyone in our league understands Marines are non-political,” Kemp said.

Kemp didn’t know if a former Marine could face penalty for wearing the uniform, and an inquiry to the Office of the Secretary of Defense on the issue was not immediately returned. Kemp said Marines are taught at boot camp to separate the uniform from personal beliefs.

“He’s entitled to his opinions, everybody is,” Kemp said. “You’re welcome to state them, but you’re not allowed to wear the uniform while doing that.”

Willoughby, 37, reached on Monday, maintained he did nothing wrong. He noted that he supported no candidate or political party at the rally, and he said he spent much of his time with the "Pine Ridge Patriots," a group he characterized as supporting the military and being non-partisan.

He also defended the tea party gathering as being apolitical.

“As far as I’m concerned, the tea party in my opinion is not a political movement,” Willoughby said. “The tea party is a gathering of true, American patriots standing up for what they believe in.”

Willoughby held a sign during the rally supporting term limits for Congress, less government spending and a smaller federal government, among other policies. He has said the uniform and sign strike back at tea party critics, who he believes have belittled the gatherings as inauthentic and have brushed off attendees’ concerns.

Department of Defense policy, to which the Marine Corps adheres, states that active and former members of the armed services are prohibited from wearing uniforms during political or partisan events. Willoughby served in the Corps between 1993 and 2000. He is a North Naples firefighter.

Ralph Balzarano, the new commander of the Golden Gate Post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, offered an assessment similar to Willoughby’s on Friday. He said tea party ideals were philosophical, not political. Regardless, he said, veterans commonly wear insignia and patches to political events.

“It’s up to the veteran,” said Balzarano, 65, an Army veteran. “In fact, if you look at some of these political rallies or when a candidate is running in the office, you see VFW caps everywhere. There’s nothing wrong about that.”

Kemp, with the Marine Corps League, said Marines in the group sometimes wear uniforms to balls or other league-sponsored activities. He said the group has its own uniform, which it wears during parades.

As on Friday, Willoughby noted that an older Marine veteran wore a uniform at the Tax Day rally. The Marine was identified in photographs by Tax Day organizer Barry Willoughby, who is Dave Willoughby's father. The marine was pictured wearing khakis and not a dress uniform. He could not immediately be reached for comment.

A defiant Dave Willoughby said he’ll take Kemp’s advice when he hears it first-hand.

“When the commandant himself sits down and tells me I can’t wear my uniform, I’ll take it into consideration,” he said. “Until then, I don’t owe anyone an apology.”

A true patriot Dave Willoughby! Steve DeFillippo’s Point of View

Response To The April 15th Naples Tea Party Naples Tea Party by Barry Willoughby

What's happened to the Supreme Court? The Social Critic by Eddie Filer

Con Con is a No No Council for Constitutional Principles by Tom Macchia

The Tax Men Commeth! Personally Speaking by Sam Person

What A Party Naples Tea Party by Barry Willoughby

Tax 'Independence Day' is upon us Jeff Lytle's views and news

Election day choices The Next 100 Years by Peter Zuris

We Will Not "Tone It Down" Naples Tea Party by Barry Willoughby

The Naples Daily News Editorial Spectacle Naples Tea Party by Barry Willoughby

Florida's Tea Party, tea party movement not the same Associated Press

Five things to know about the Tea Party Associated Press

© 2010 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Stories

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features