WASHINGTON (CNN) — The highest-ranking officer in the US Marine Corps has ordered Confederate-related paraphernalia to be removed from all Marine installations.
The order from Commandant Gen. David Berger was one of several initiatives he prioritized for “immediate execution” in a memo sent to senior leadership last week, Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Joseph Butterfield told CNN.
Some of the other directives were posted by Berger on Twitter, including revising the parental leave policy to include same-sex couples, reviewing the possibility of yearlong maternity leave for female Marines and to get more female Marines into combat jobs.
Butterfield didn’t provide any details regarding when the paraphernalia needs to be removed, but he noted that any official policy decisions would be published in appropriate orders or servicewide messages.
Berger’s spokesman Maj. Eric Flanagan told CNN that while there isn’t a large amount of Confederate paraphernalia on Marine Corps installations, it’s “worth commanders taking an additional look.”
Military still has connections to the Confederacy
Despite a number of states and local governments taking down Confederate flags and statues in their cities, 10 Army bases are still named after Confederate generals, including Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Benning in Georgia and Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
The flag of the Confederacy, its symbols and the statues commemorating Confederate leaders have long divided the country. Critics call the flag a symbol that represents the war to uphold slavery, while supporters call it a sign of Southern pride and heritage.
The symbols have increasingly become a rallying call for white supremacists.
In 2015, Dylann Roof killed nine members of a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina. A photo of Roof holding a Confederate flag was posted on his website that featured his manifesto.
During the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, white nationalists protested the removal of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s statue.
It was later revealed that the leader of Vanguard America — a group that helped organize the “Unite the Right” rally — was a former Marine recruiter.
Following those reports, then-Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller said there is “no place for racial hatred or extremism in the Marine Corps.”
Earlier this month, the Military Times released a poll showing 36% of troops who responded said they personally witnessed examples of white nationalism or ideological-driven racism in recent months. That was an increase from the year before, when only 22% reported the same, the Military Times reported.
Poll participants reported witnessing not just racist language and discriminatory attitudes, but swastikas being drawn on service members’ cars, tattoos affiliated with white supremacist groups, stickers supporting the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi-style salutes between peers, according to the Military Times.