You can’t swing a DD 214 these days without knocking over a half dozen veteran-owned T-shirt companies, but the newest to come on the scene has some baggage.
On New Year’s Day, retired Special Warfare Operator Chief Eddie Gallagher, whom President Trump granted clemency in his war crimes court-martial sentencing in November, launched Salty Frog Apparel, a collection of tees and drinkware in collaboration with veteran-owned Nine Line Apparel and Black Rifle Coffee Company.
“I was afforded the opportunity to work with both NLA and BRCC to help promote our collaborative line with Nine Line ‘Salty Frog Gear,' " Gallagher said in a statement posted on the label’s website. "These two veteran owned companies set the bar for brotherhood and showing the country it’s not just a statement but a way of life.”
Almost as quickly as the line went public, it faced backlash. The founders of two famous veteran brands, Terminal Lance’s Maximilian Urirarte and Ranger Up’s Nick Palmisciano, tweeted their reactions on Wednesday.
Much of the eye-rolling comes from the brand’s position at the nexus of two hot-button topics in the veteran community: A service member granted clemency over a war crime conviction crossed with a former “quiet professional” leaning into his controversial fame.
The partnership began earlier this year, according to Gallagher’s attorney, when Nine Line designed a “Free Eddie” T-shirt fundraiser for the SEAL’s legal fees. A spokesman for the company did not return a request for comment.
“Notwithstanding the current press coverage from one side, Eddie had a lot, a lot of supporters,” Tim Parlatore told Military Times on Thursday.
The national attention garnered Gallagher a huge social media following, inspiring the joint venture.
But this isn’t another case of a SEAL cashing in on his elite special operations notoriety, the attorney said.
“Eddie Gallagher is not one of those SEALs who, you know, went into this so he could eventually write a book and start a political career,” he said.
The plan had been to do the job, then retire and become a security contractor with the CIA.
“He never wanted the spotlight, he never wanted any of this stuff,” Parlatore said. “The false accusations and the resulting trial forced him into the spotlight undesired. And so now that he’s retired and his career prospects ... they’re gone ― he’s still got to provide for his family. He’s got young kids.”
Gallagher’s case made national news this year as he was acquitted in the summer of murdering a teenage ISIS fighter, but convicted of taking a photo with the corpse, resulting in a reduction in rank and a threat to take away his SEAL qualification pin as he prepared to retire.
President Donald Trump stepped in last fall, deciding to promote Gallagher back to E-7 as he prepared to retire and directing Defense Secretary Mark Esper to cancel the review board that would have determined whether Gallagher got to keep his Budweiser.
In the weeks since, Gallagher has struck up a relationship with the president. In November, The Daily Beast reported that Trump had considered bringing Gallagher on the road for his reelection campaign, while the SEAL and his wife attended the Mar-a-Lago Christmas Eve party at Trump’s Palm Beach, Florida, resort.
There have been no formal discussions of making appearances at rallies and so on, Parlatore said.
“That being said, if asked, would he?” he added. “He would. because obviously, the president stood by him.”
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.