An Army flight surgeon apparently is sticking to his vow not to deploy until he is satisfied that President Barack Obama is a “natural born” citizen.
Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin did not report for duty at Fort Campbell, Ky. as ordered today, and a spokesman for the post said it’s not likely he will.
“The last report I got as of Friday is that he is not going to report to Fort Campbell,” spokesman Maj. Patrick Seiber said. “That’s from our division surgeon.”
Lakin’s failure to report essentially dares the Army to bring charges against him for being an unauthorized absence.
Lakin, who has been the chief of primary care at the Pentagon’s Tricare health clinic, could not be reached this morning at his Maryland home. Margaret Hemenway, a spokeswoman for a group called the Patriotic American Foundation, which is supporting the 18-year officer, said the Army should not expect Lakin to report unless he sees an original birth certificate showing that Obama was born in Hawaii.
“I think he is solid in his resolve,” she told Military.com. “I don’t know that they [the Army] know what they are going to do with him. I think they’ve been counting on him getting down to Fort Campbell. I think they misled themselves and may have underestimated his commitment.”
Lakin is scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan. It would be his second deployment there, he said in a video posted on the Patriotic American Foundation website. His failure to report to the Kentucky post marks the first time since he went public with his vow that he has technically disobeyed an order.
The Army has not said yet what it intends to do about Lakin. Calls to his unit — Headquarters Company, Medical Brigade, Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington — were not returned by post time.
To this point the Army has ducked taking serious action against the decorated flight surgeon, claiming his public statements and threat to disobey orders did not constitute any punishable offense. On March 31 — the day after the video was released — he was given a letter of counseling. In the letter, his commander at Walter Reed warned him against not reporting for duty as ordered.
The orders, Lakin was told, “are presumed to be valid and lawful orders issued by competent military authority.” The letter warned Lakin that not showing up at Campbell could result in his facing AWOL charges, as well as missing movement, willfully disobeying a lawful order and showing contempt toward officials. A conviction on any of the charges could mean a dishonorable discharge, imprisonment and loss of all pay and allowances.
Even if handed a general discharge under “other than honorable” conditions, the career officer stands to lose his military retirement benefits, the letter states.
Lakin is not the first servicemember to use the so-called “birther” argument to fight deployment orders. Last July, the Army yanked Afghanistan deployment orders for Maj. Stefan Cook when he challenged President Obama’s legitimacy in court. Army Capt. Connie Rhodes, another doctor, went to federal court to stop her Iraq deployment for the same reason. Her case was tossed out in September.
Phil Cave, a retired Navy judge advocate general who now practices military law as a civilian, believes birther groups are hoping that a court-martial of a servicemember will permit them to use discovery to uncover documents to help their case. He told Military.com last week that no military, appellate or federal court will give defense attorneys that right of discovery.
Hemenway said the president has the power to end the controversy just be releasing his original birth certificate. Hemenway does not accept as genuine the Hawaiian birth certificate that has previously been released.
“It would take [Obama] a minute to do it,” she said. “It would help heal the country …. And it would be transparent.”