You can now call him “Mr. Scheller.”
In a Thursday Facebook post, the now former Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller Jr., who publicly called for accountability from the military and political leaders who led America’s longest war, announced he had been discharged from the Marine Corps, effective Thursday.
An infantry officer with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Scheller crashed into the national dialogue following a now-viral Aug. 26 social media video of him speaking out in uniform. His demands for accountability from military and political leadership, both current and past, for the conduct of the war in Afghanistan eventually saw him jailed and court-martialed.
Scheller’s father, Stuart Scheller Sr., had taken to social media in November to lament how long the process of discharging his son from the Marine Corps had been taking.
“Commandant David H. Berger talks about treating Marines as humans as opposed to inventory,” Scheller Sr. wrote. “But 5 weeks to sign a resignation? Seriously!? They should be ashamed of themselves.”
More than a month later, and more than two months after accepting his resignation as part of a plea deal, the Marine Corps processed the resignation of the lieutenant colonel’s commission.
Scheller’s post also stated that he had received a general discharge under honorable conditions, the lowest allowed under the conditions of his plea deal.
The Marine Corps has yet to respond to questions asked by the Marine Corps Times regarding both the timeline and nature of Scheller’s discharge.
In his announcement, Scheller thanked the Marines who “all the Marines who served, led, bled, and suffered” alongside him over his 17-year career. Additionally, Scheller thanked the Marine Corps for “forging him into a man.” Scheller also compared his “defeats” in demanding accountability from political and military leadership to early setbacks the U.S. faced during the Revolutionary War.
“But George Washington, undeterred, mobilized his force for a surprise attack over the holidays...as history shows, it was a turning point in the war,” Scheller wrote.
Scheller went on to criticize his treatment by the Marine Corps. He stated that he had been “slandered” by the Marine Corps, “imprisoned under false pretense as a ‘flight risk,’” and “held illegally” in jail.
“Was it worth it? Well... unfortunately for them… the war isn’t over,” Scheller wrote. “I think we just arrived at a turning point.”
Scheller noted a “television media blitz” he is about to embark on, and his new website authenticamericans.com.
Scheller first took to social media Aug. 26 shortly after 13 U.S. troops were killed in an attack on Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.
“The reason so many people are upset on social media right now is not because the Marine on the battlefield let someone down,” Scheller said in August, noting that those service members always have risen to the occasion. “People are upset because their senior leaders let them down, and none of them are raising their hands and accepting accountability or saying, ‘We messed this up.’”
Scheller then asked if the secretary of defense or chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which includes the commandant, threw their rank on the table and said, “Hey, it’s a bad idea to evacuate Bagram Airfield, a strategic airbase, before we evacuate everyone? Did anyone do that? And when you didn’t think to do that, did anyone raise their hand and say, ‘We completely messed this up.’”
The video led to Scheller’s almost immediate firing from his position as the battalion commander of Advanced Infantry Training Battalion at School of Infantry-East at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
“My chain of command is doing exactly what I would do… if I were in their shoes,” Scheller wrote in a post that followed his being relieved of command.
Despite this disciplinary action from the Marine Corps, Scheller continued to post both videos and written statements to social media. He called for accountability from multiple military leaders during these posts, both past and present, and in his chain of command. Additionally, Scheller criticized multiple U.S. presidents who had overseen the conduct of the war in Afghanistan.
Ultimately, Scheller’s continued public demands for accountability landed him in a Marine Corps brig, without charge, on Sept. 27. Scheller remained in confinement until on Oct. 5, when he was charged, and his lawyers struck a plea deal with the Marine Corps, in which he pleaded guilty to all violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice that the Marine Corps levied against him.
During an Oct. 14 court-martial, Scheller pleaded guilty to violating Article 88 (contempt toward officials), Article 89 (disrespect toward superior commissioned officers), Article 90 (willfully disobeying a superior commissioned officer), Article 92 (dereliction in the performance of duties), Article 92 (failure to obey an order or regulation) and 27 specifications of Article 133 (conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman).
Scheller was directed to forfeit $5,000 of pay for one month for these violations. Additionally, part of Scheller’s agreement with prosecutors was that he would resign his commission and receive an honorable discharge or general under honorable conditions as part of the agreement, so long as Navy Secretary Carlos del Toro signed off on the character of the discharge.
Col. Glenn Hines, the Marine judge who oversaw Scheller’s trial, sharply criticized the Marine Corps’ handling of Scheller’s case and rejected the prosecution’s request for further punishment against the outspoken Marine Officer.
Hines described the combination of Scheller’s pretrial confinement, along with alleged leaks to the press, as raising the “specter of unlawful command influence.”
“When senior leaders [or] certain people decide to take certain actions like leaking medical records, like putting somebody in pretrial confinement [when there is] no risk of flight, there should be consequences,” Scheller’s attorney Tim Parlatore told reporters following the conclusion of the court-martial.
For more than two months following the trial, Scheller remained on active duty and out of the public eye as part of the plea agreement.
However, in an October interview with Marine Corps Times, Scheller’s parents expressed dissatisfaction with how the Marine Corps handled their son’s case.
“This is as good a man as you want in the Marine Corps,” Cathy Scheller told Marine Corps Times in an October interview. “That’s what is so heartbreaking.”
Over his career, Scheller received multiple awards and decorations. They include the National Defense Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (three times), Army Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal with combat “V,” Iraq Campaign Medal, Navy Unit Commendation (three times), Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation (two times), Humanitarian Service Medal (two times), Joint Meritorious Unit Award, NATO Medal-ISAF Afghanistan, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (five times), Bronze Star Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (three times), Korean Defense Service Medal, Marine Corps Combat Instructor Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, according to a Marine Corps spokesman.
Andrea Scott, Philip Athey, and Davis Winkie contributed to this report.
James R. Webb is a rapid response reporter for Military Times. He served as a US Marine infantryman in Iraq. Additionally, he has worked as a Legislative Assistant in the US Senate and as an embedded photographer in Afghanistan.