The national holiday honoring assassinated civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr. is Monday, and it has turned into a massive headache for the U.S. Marine Corps' special operations organization. Marine Corps Force Special Operations Command posted a message on Twitter Friday urging Marines to stay safe over the holiday weekend -- and urging them not to be a "lone shooter."
"Don't be lone shooter #MLK weekend! make sure you've got security - stay safe! #MARSOC #Marines #shortbarrelforVBSS," said the message, posted at 10:52 a.m. along with a link to a photo of a Marine aiming a short-barreled rifle out a window.
The post was quickly removed when attention was drawn to it.
"Could this have been stated more awkwardly?" asked one Twitter user going by the handle Tequila0341.
@MARSOCofficial could this have been stated more awkwardly?— Henry Shieh (@Tequila0341) January 17, 2014
"That MARSOC #MLKweekend "lone shooter" tweet is gonna get someone fired," said another Twitter user, @JRMoockjr.
That MARSOC #MLKweekend "lone shooter" tweet is gonna get someone fired.— John Moock (@JRMoockjr) January 17, 2014
King was killed April 4, 1968, by a lone gunman in Memphis, Tenn. His holiday coincides with his birthday, Jan. 15.
MARSOC quickly removed the post after questions were raised.
"Marine leaders will frequently take the opportunity to remind their personnel to make wise decisions and to look out for each other especially before a long holiday weekend," Lt. Col. Neil Murphy, a Marine spokesman at the Pentagon, told Foreign Policy. "The intent of the post was to remind personnel to partner up when going out over the weekend and to look out for each other. When MARSOC was alerted to the potential that this military post could be viewed as insensitive or offensive when combined with the historical facts concerning Martin Luther King Jr., they immediately took it down and have posted a short apology."
UPDATE: 1:31 p.m.: MARSOC just posted the following in regard to their last tweet.
From the Command in reference to our latest tweet: pic.twitter.com/9ln39HCWqA— MARSOC (@MARSOCofficial) January 17, 2014
The gaffe perpetuates an ongoing problem between the military and civilian world. U.S. service members frequently use military or gun terminology when speaking about other issues, causing confusion or misinterpretations.
In one example, a comment from an Army officer published in Army Times in 2012 was twisted in a subsequent article in The Nation to insinuate that the U.S. military is actively and deliberately targeting children during military operations in Afghanistan. The initial comments said only that the Taliban's use of children in the war zone "kind of opens our aperture" on what U.S. forces must observe while in Afghanistan -- a gun reference apparently lost on The Nation.