The following story came out today in all four Military Times Publications (Army Times, Air Force Times, Marine Times, Navy Times), on the back cover where the “Off Duty” Section is. As anyone who reads this blog knows, CJ and I are very close and talk regularly outside of our weekly Radio show that we host together. Please take a few moments to read this story and then hope, pray, cross your fingers, whatever that the Army does not retaliate against him.
By Jon R. Anderson
Master Sgt. C.J.
Grisham is not the type to shy away from a fight. Decorated for valor in Iraq, the 15-year Army veteran is also saluted as one of the most popular, if sometimes controversial, bloggers in the miliÂtary. Where the average life exÂpectancy of a blog is said to be less than three months, Grishamâ€™s has survived for six years.
But he says he has had enough.
â€œBlogging is no longer worth the trouble,â€ Grisham recently wrote on his blog, A Soldier â€™s PerspecÂtive, under the headline â€œASP Closed for Business.â€ Assigned to a military intelliÂgence company at Redstone ArseÂnal, Ala., Grishamâ€™s in-your-face opinions have won him a loyal folÂlowing but also earned the scorn of his superiors, who contend he vioÂlated military limits about what troops can say on certain topics.
Grisham has criticized PresiÂdent Barack Obamaâ€™s fitness to run the country, chided the DemoÂcratic Party and battled with local school officials. He has been inÂvestigated by the inspector generÂal and called on the carpet by his commanders.
Though he has not been ordered to stop blogging, he says he canâ€™t do so under the restrictions placed on him.
In a note to the nearly 5,000 people on his private mailing list, Grisham wrote, â€œThe facts are clear. The Army does NOT want honest bloggers. They want sheep. … If I canâ€™t be honest and open, I wonâ€™t write at all.â€ Lt. Col. Bruce Johnson, commanÂder of Grishamâ€™s parent command, the Fort Meade, Md.-based 309th Military Intelligence Battalion, referred questions to a spokesman.
Command Sgt. Maj. Carl Myers of the 309th told Military Times that Grishamâ€™s situation was â€œin the process of being looked into. Iâ€™m not sure what the particulars are, just that itâ€™s being looked into.â€ Grisham and his blog posts unÂderscore the challenges in trying to impose military limitations on free speech on troops fighting to protect such freedoms. And they highlight the difficulties the brass faces in trying at the same time to embrace and contain the reach of blogging, Facebook, Twitter and other forms of newly emerging â€œsocial media.â€
PATRICIA MIKLIK DOYLE
Army Master Sgt. C.J. Grisham, currently stationed at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., operates the controversial blog A Soldierâ€™s Perspective. Pictured with his wife, Emily, Grisham has faced criticism from his command.
Standing an inch shy of 5Â½ feet tall in basic training, Grisham was dubbed â€œChicken Hawkâ€ after Henery Hawk, the tough bird with a big mouth in the Foghorn Leghorn cartoons. He earned the nickname when he took down the biggest guy in his platoon three times in a row during pugil-stick training.
Eight years later, during the inÂ vasion of Iraq, Grisham took down a squad of Iraqis when his counterintelligence detachment got pinned down in an ambush.
He earned the Bronze Star with â€œVâ€ after rushing through the gunfire by himself with just a 9mm pistol and a hand grenade.
No, Grisham is not afraid of a fight and heâ€™s not afraid to speak his mind, either.
After returning from war, Grisham launched A Soldier â€™s Perspective. He started the site as a way to share his experiences and tell his Army story. In his first post he promised to cover the range of military life â€œfrom the inane to the insane. … Sometimes I will complain about and sometimes I will laud my chosen profession of arms.â€ And he delivered.
His posts soon gathered a wide following with a readership that has spanned more than 120 counÂtries. Nearly 1 million hits later, ASP garnered an average of 1,500 visitors per day, making it the second most popular site on MilBlogging.com, an index of milÂitary blogs.
Focused and scrappy
Pugnacious, deeply patriotic, pro-Army yet prolific in both his praise and criticism, Grisham has helped launch four successful blogs and a weekly Internet radio show. He mostly focuses on raisÂing awareness ( and often money) for veterans issues, but he also patrols through the minefields of local and national politics.
Indeed, he is an unabashed conÂservative with razor-wire wit who has cast stones at what he calls â€œRepugnicansâ€ and â€œDumbocratsâ€ alike but has also been to the White House twice â€” invited first by President George W. Bush, and more recently by President Barack Obama â€” for roundtable discussions on military outreach.
All this while remaining a topÂrated senior noncommissioned officer, a troop-leading first sergeant and an active counterinÂtelligence agent, according to his fitness reports. â€œA true Soldiersâ€™ Soldier. Promote to SGM immediÂately,â€ gushed his senior rater in Grishamâ€™s most recent evaluation in June.
Yet after nearly six years of active blogging, in recent months Grisham has found himself the target of an inspector general investigation and a threatened general letter of reprimand. Now his command is exploring formal charges against him.
A summer of dissed content
Last summer Grisham got into hot water when someone comÂplained to officials that he encourÂaged readers to vote against gun control measures, called for a wholesale changing of the guard in Congress and questioned Obamaâ€™s truthfulness.
In a blog section titled â€œObama is wrong for America,â€ he wrote: â€œThe reality is that the American people can NOT take the PresiÂdent at his word.â€ At least thatâ€™s what he assumes was the problem based on the questions investigators with the Army Intelligence and Security Commandâ€™s inspector general asked him.
The IG closed the case without further action. Grisham filed a reÂquest for a copy of the report but still hasnâ€™t seen it. â€œFour months later I have yet to actually seeany of the IG complaints against me or where I might have done anything wrong,â€ he said.
The IGâ€™s office did not return phone calls requesting comment.
Not long after, Grisham was fired from his job as an intelliÂgence company first sergeant at Redstone and punted to a garriÂson position. The firing also came not long after he announced on his radio show â€” during an interÂview with Gen. Peter Chiarelli â€” that he was wrestling with postÂtraumatic stress disorder and planned to seek help. During the show, Grisham said he wanted to lead from the front when it came to reducing the stigma of PTSD.
The move also came just days after being quoted in a Military Times feature story on the changÂing landscape of social media inÂside the ranks.
â€œThe upper echelon gets it, the lower echelon gets it,â€ Grisham said at the time, â€œbut itâ€™s the midÂdle ranks in between â€” the O-5s and O-6s â€” that are still really struggling with whether or not this is a good thing.â€
Grishamâ€™s most recent battle with his superiors grew out of his blogging about disagreements he had with the local school board after they decided to imÂplement a student uniform policy halfway into the year without input from parents.
Grisham, who had two kids in the school, posted unflattering video he shot of school officials fumbling through a meeting. School offiÂcials called the Army to complain. His company comÂmander, Capt. Brian Hawkins, called Grisham in to talk about it. â€œI felt like this was a matter beÂtween him and the school,â€ Hawkins said. â€œThey were conÂcerned about him being a threat. I can tell you heâ€™s not a threat. I read what he wrote. I didnâ€™t take it as threatening.â€ Hawkinsâ€™ message to the school: â€œIf you feel threatened by him, if you feel threatened by anyone, you should call the police.â€ School officials instead took their complaints up the chain of command.
In the weeks that followed, Grisham says, Redstone Arsenal garrison commander Col. Robert Pastorelli and Command Sgt.
Maj. Rickey Cooper repeatedly called him on the carpet, ordering him to remove posts.
Grisham said he was ordered to see investigators at Criminal InÂvestigation Command to deterÂmine whether heâ€™d broken any laws.
â€œThey said the only threat I made was to threaten a lawsuit and, of course, thatâ€™s not illegal,â€ Grisham said. He was soon orÂdered by his command to scale back his blogging, so his wife, Emily, took over.
â€œSince he gets in trouble every time he writes something, Iâ€™m going to write whatâ€™s going on.
They canâ€™t do anything to me,â€ she wrote. The next day, Grisham said he was yelled at for his wifeâ€™s posts. Pastorelli and Cooper declined to comment. Post spokeswoman Kim Henry said Grisham was counÂseled and ordered to remove the video posts, but said she would have to consult with military lawyers when asked if that was a lawful order.
â€œItâ€™s not a lawful order and it goes to the heart of free expresÂsion,â€ said Capt. Mike Lebowitz, an Army lawyer for the Virginia National Guard who regularly lectures at Yale University on milÂitary free speech issues. â€œFilming anyone at a public meeting is fair game.â€ â€œI donâ€™t know how he disgraced the NCO Corps,â€ said Sgt. 1st Class Chad Vervaet, an instructor at the NCO Academy, who has moved his son out of the same school because of problems there.
â€œThis never should have been a military issue in the first place. I was at all the same meetings at the school with C.J. and he never once threatened anyone.â€ â€œThis is a failure of leadership on the Armyâ€™s side,â€ said Dale JackÂson, a former soldier and local radio journalist who has been covÂering the controversy. â€œInstead of the commanders protecting their soldier, they just tried to make the problem go away by telling C.J. to shut up. Except C.J. stood his ground. Heâ€™s not one to be bullied.â€ â€œWe are in need of more veterans and troops speaking out, not less,â€ writes one blogger at War on TerÂror News. â€œWhether the voices are silenced by governmental interferÂence, harassment, or fatigue, the results are the same: another voice in the debate silenced.â€ Even officials at the Pentagon have taken notice.
â€œI know heâ€™s pretty frustrated.
And it must be a pretty high level of frustration for him to stop doing what heâ€™s doing because I know he loves what heâ€™s doing,â€ said Lt. Col. Kevin Arata, the Armyâ€™s point man for social media issues, who has known Grishamâ€™s name for years.
â€œAs far as whatâ€™s going on beÂtween him and his chain of comÂmand, I donâ€™t think thatâ€™s for me to say, but heâ€™s certainly done a great job over these past few years,â€ said Arata, adding â€œany time we lose someone of that calÂiber, thereâ€™s a certain amount of loss for the Army.â€
The last word
Grisham is preparing to report to Fort Hood, Texas, in February.
Heâ€™s hopeful for a fresh start but says he is feeling pessimistic. He was planning to take a month of leave, but his command has told him any time off will be suspendÂed if officials decide to conduct a fact-finding â€œ15-6 investigationâ€ into his blogging.
â€œI feel frustrated, and I feel beÂtrayed,â€ he said. â€œIt really affects me. Moral integrity means someÂthing to me. The NCO Creed means something to me,â€ he says, quietly repeating it aloud from memory, almost as if in prayer.
â€œI am surrounded by heroic Americans who would give their lives if needed, but this whole thing has really soured me and made me second-guess what Iâ€™m doing here. Why am I in an orgaÂnization that would throw you to the fish like this? … All it takes is one command who doesnâ€™t get it [to] turn your life upside down.â€PATRICIA MIKLIK DOYLE
Grisham is one of the most popular military bloggers, reaching some 1,500 readers a day â€” until recently, when he shut down A Soldierâ€™s Perspective.A Snapshot of CJ’s Blogging and online Activities
A SOLDIERâ€™S PERSPECTIVE
Guest bloggers: About 12, from all four services, including several general officers.
Grishamâ€™s other military blogs
They Have Names ( www.theyhavenames.com ): A site dedicated to telling the individual stories of fallen service members in Iraq and Afghanistan.
You Served ( www.youserved.com ): A regular rundown of veterans news and benefits.
You Served Weekly BlogTalkRadio Podcast ( www.blogtalkradio.com /
youserved ): A weekly Web radio show with a variety of guests of interest to the military community.
Twitter ( www.twitter.com / cjgrisham ): Grishamâ€™s microblogging site.
Military Pundits ( http: // militarypundits.com ): A site for more politically charged commentary, launched by Grisham and now a collective for several writers.
Since this article was originally written several new things have happened. For one, CJ is pursuing legal action against the School Board and the several other parties who’s actions have caused his impeccable military career to be tarnished and have caused his family to be split up. CJ is also securing one of the most successful and high-profile attorneys that has represented many cases defending against over-zealous military court systems. All of this costs money of course. CJ has sold his website A Soldier’s Prospective (ASP) to Cat5 Commerce in order to help raise money. The folks at Cat5 are keeping the site up and are hoping to keep it business as usual, to include having CJ continue his blogging there. Below is a quote from the first blog entry on ASP from the new owners,
Cat5 operates multiple retail destinations that have proudly served the military community for over five years. With CJâ€™s full cooperation, Cat5 has secured the rights to the blog and the domain name for A Soldierâ€™s Perspective. Our sole reason for doing this is to provide CJ and company with the uncensored platform that has come to represent everything that ASP stands for.
CJâ€™s struggles with the PTA and the Army have been well documented here. These struggles culminated with his recent decision to shut the blog down. As loyal readers of A Soldierâ€™s Perspective ourselves, we felt compelled to act and offered to operate the site in an effort to keep it going. CJ accepted, and by doing so, he can move past the technical and legal aspects of operating a blog and focus on what he does best â€” speaking the truth.
To be perfectly clear, Cat5 Commerce has only one objective in regards to A Soldierâ€™s Perspective: To give soldiers a voice. CJ has assured us he will continue posting and contributing, and we are reaching out to the rest of the staff to extend the same opportunity. We are fully committed to preserving the honesty, the integrity and the authenticity that has made ASP one of the most compelling military blogs on the web. Thank you for your continued support and for you ongoing interest in A Soldierâ€™s Perspective. More can be read at http://bouhammer.com/2009/12/milblogger-and-dear-friend-needs-your-help/
Also, CJ is cutting all costs, unnecessary expenditures, etc. so he can have the money needed to pay for retainers, etc. He is also humbling himself by asking for donations towards his legal costs.
You can Click the Button below
OrÂ you can also mail checks or money orders to:
Grisham Legal Fund
c/o Redstone Federal Credit Union
220 Wynn Drive
Huntsville, AL 35893
Please write â€œGrisham Legal Fundâ€ in the memo line if you use this option.
On Behalf of Bouhammer.com I want to thank all and everyone for your assistance for CJ.
In addition, I am taking all profits from the sale of any hats, embroidered shirts, decals (which are the only items in the Bouhammer Gear Store that I make a profit on) and giving those towards CJ’s legal Fund. I will continue to do this from now until CJ tells me he does not need it anymore.