Retired General Punished for Mocking Jill Biden in Tweet U.S. President Joe Biden and First lady Jill Biden host a Fourth of July event for military families to celebrate Independence Day on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on July 4, 2022. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Sipa via AP)
By Sandy Fitzgerald | Saturday, 09 July 2022 12:41 PM EDT
Retired three-star Lt. Gen. Gary Volesky, the former top spokesman for the U.S. Army and recipient of the Silver Star for his service, has been suspended from his $92-per-hour consultation contract with the Army after he posted a tweet appearing to mock first lady Jill Biden.
Army spokeswoman Cynthia Smith confirmed to USA Today that Volesky, who had been working as a senior mentor to advise senior military officers, staff, and students, was suspended by Lt. Gen. Theodore Martin, commander of the Combined Arms Center, pending an inquiry.
The action came after Volesky responded to a tweet posted by the first lady on June 24 after the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, in which she said that "for nearly 50 years, women have had the right to make our own decisions about our bodies. Today, that right was stolen."
Volesky retorted: "Glad to see you finally know what a woman is."
The post seemed to be in response to an exchange that took place in March during confirmation hearings for Justice Ketanji Jackson Brown, when Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., pressed her to define the word "woman" when it comes to transgender rights.
Experts said Volesky's response breached decorum for a retired military officer and ventured into partisan politics, which officials on the Pentagon's payroll are supposed to avoid. The tweet has been deleted. Volesky did not reply to requests for comment, and Michael LaRosa, a spokesman for the first lady, declined to comment.
However, USA Today notes that Volesky has posted other tweets with political overtones, including responding to a tweet from Rep. Liz Cheney concerning the Jan. 6 House Select Committee, telling her that "this is all about partisan politics" after she said members of Congress and their "oath to the Constitution must be above partisan politics."
The Army reports Volesky earned $50,046 from November 2020 to August 2021 and $18,952 from September 20 to June 22 for his work, as the Pentagon describes, to bring "enlightened thinking" to the military.
But Volesky's tweets reflect a trend of recently retired senior officers who take political stands, including retired Marine Gen. John Allen, who endorsed then-Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016, and retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a strong supporter of former President Donald Trump who also served as his national security adviser.
But Andrew Bacevich, emeritus professor of history at Boston University and a retired Army colonel, said it is "difficult to understand" why Volesky or any other retired military officer "would undermine the military's reputation for being above politics just to score some cheap partisan points on social media."
Volesky was a highly decorated infantry officer recognized for his bravery after leading a rescue mission in Iraq in 2004. He was later named as the Army's chief spokesman, leading its office of public affairs, and also commanded the 101st Airborne Division, including leading part of the unit to Africa to respond to the Ebola outbreak in 2014.
He earned his third star and became commander of the I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, overseeing more than 40,000 soldiers including bases in Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii.