EXCLUSIVE: Interview with parents of Marine Lt. Col. Scheller;
Reactions to letter of reprimand calling him "narcissistic"
A tale of two missions; Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller, Jr. is not backing down from demanding accountability from senior military leaders after the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, and his parents aren’t backing down from their effort to put pressure on the military to accept his resignation.
On October 14, military judge Marine Col. Glen Hines accepted Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller’s guilty plea at his special court-martial and a day later announced the sentence would be a letter of reprimand and loss of one month’s pay amounting to $5,000.
Fox News obtained copies of both the letter of reprimand and Scheller’s response to it.
In the October 26 letter, Maj. Gen. Julian D. Alford wrote that Scheller had violated his solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution. “Your actions have harmed good order and discipline with the service as well as publicly discredited the U.S. Marine Corps,” the general chided. “Your narcissistic acts can serve only to erode the rule of law.”
Scheller’s two-page response blasted his superiors for putting him in jail “on the claim that I was a flight risk, which was unsupported by any facts” – and refusing to provide underwear, socks and other basic necessities during the first five days in solitary confinement.
He also demanded an investigation of his supervisors for allegedly leaking his medical records to a journalist, which he said was retaliation for speaking out.
Scheller objected to Alford personally writing the letter of reprimand and overseeing the prosecution when he had named himself as a victim in the charging sheet, arguing it constituted a conflict of interest.
“I have accepted responsibility and accountability for my actions,” he wrote in closing. “I hope you ensure the same degree of accountability is exacted from those who … failed in their duties to ensure that 13 service members did not have to die needlessly.”
When you listen to Cathy and Stu Scheller, Sr. talk about their son and his situation, you understand where the Marine got his strength from. As the saying goes, ‘the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.’
Citizen Stringer spoke with the Scheller’s on Tuesday, shortly after they read the Fox News piece.
Cathy Scheller began by saying she was relieved that the letter of reprimand had been submitted because it meant their son was one step closer to getting out of the Marines, but she said it could still be six to twelve months before his resignation is accepted.
On Gen. Alford, she too wondered if it was appropriate for him to write the letter if he claimed he was one of the victims of Scheller’s actions.
She mentioned the “hostility that continues to show,” detailing what even the judge thought was harsh punishment during Scheller’s pre-trial confinement. Five of the nine days he spent in solitary confinement were spent without the basic necessities such as socks, underwear, toothpaste, etc.
Stu Sr. pointed out that “even Judge Hines said, ‘Are you kidding? Nine days of solitary confinement without socks, and underwear, and basic necessities, for five of those days for posting on Facebook?’ It was excessively harsh and that is why the judge gave a light sentence.
He knows he broke the rules, Mr. Scheller said, as he quoted his son; ‘I’m guilty,’ I accept accountability, but I did it to draw attention to the fact that our senior leaders are not accepting accountability.” He added, “They’re still not accepting accountability.”
“Stuart is saying, ‘It’s not about me, it’s about accountability. And if we don’t have accountability, at the senior ranks in our Marine Corps, that’s what’s gonna hurt the Marine Corps, not me stepping out,’” said Stu Sr.
“The focus is accountability,” Cathy said.” You cannot have hypocrisy and a double standard. You cannot expect accountability from those junior officers and not have accountability for the senior officers. There needs to be accountability all the way through.”
Mrs. Scheller explained that 71% of Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 are ineligible for service based on medical, intelligence, legal or tattoo barriers, and that only 1% of the American population has served. She said, “Take that 1% and consider that 22 veterans a day are killing themselves…think about the devastation of that math,” she said.
She feels that if the eligibility is set for such a low number, then changes should be made to secure the physical and mental health of that population. Looking at it from the outside, the numbers are out of proportion, and an inappropriate number of people are committing suicide, she said.
The Scheller’s feel that PTSD is not the only factor involved in veteran suicides, as they had previously thought. They now think that military culture may have something to do with it as well.
They take umbrage at the fact the word ‘narcissistic’ was used to describe their son, who has a spotless record after 17 years of service and is highly decorated. They have not seen either of the letters, and are anxious to see them.
According to Cathy, Lt. Col. Scheller started with the 1/8 (1st Battalion, 8th Marines), a unit that saw “horrific fighting.” She said, “He was there to see friends get blown up. He was there to see a good buddy who spoke at his court-martial who …lost his leg up to his hip, 25 surgeries, two and a half years in Walter Reed and recovery. He has seen a lot and then he came home.”
It was the 1/8 that lost 11 members on August 26 at the airport in Kabul. Cathy said people were texting him photos of what happened there, “And I think it came full circle from his first deployment to that day. It just became full circle to him…I think he saw all 17 years and then he saw us hand everything, and our safety, over to the Taliban, the very people he was fighting,” she said.
The Scheller’s said their son has lost his wife and children, his command, and his entrepreneurial business.
“And so in the end, Mrs. Scheller said, “he’s gone to prison, lost his freedom, has a gag order…and I, his mother, am standing here saying, ‘What more do they want from him?’ And his father has said, ‘do they want a firing squad?’ What do they want? He has pled guilty. And I’m going to stand here and tell you I believe what the military wants, is what those other 22 members do a day. And that’s what they’re aiming for – in all of their actions. That’s how it has felt to me as his mother watching this go down. After 17 years of impeccable service. This is how they treat him and they just want to put enough pressure on him until he goes away. Where is the honor in that? Where is the honor in our corps?”
“It took them hours to relieve him of his command, and took them just days to throw him in jail, release his medical records, and take him to court-martial in less than a month,” said Stu Sr. They believe Scheller completed all the required steps necessary to exit the Marine Corps. a week ago.
The next step is for Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro to sign off on the resignation, but before that happens, the process needs to go up the chain of command which includes four or five generals. The acceptance of Lt. Col. Scheller’s resignation was part of his plea deal.
Last month, the Scheller’s launched a website where statements and facts about the court-martial can be found, as well as the contact information for the Secretary of the Navy. They are asking people to call, or write letters or emails, asking him to accept Lt. Col. Scheller’s resignation expediently and to give him an honorable discharge for his 17 years of heroic service.
The website is IStandwithStu.com.
All previous Citizen Stringer articles written about Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller can be found here.
Originally published on Citizen Stringer, November 3, 2021