Husband and wife took rare step of coming forward, calling for radical change to root out the kind of reprehensible behavior exposed over secret Facebook page
Two former Marine Corps colonels are calling for a radical change of culture to root out the kind of reprehensible sexual harassment exposed in the scandal over a secret Facebook page featuring nude pictures of female marines and violent language that has ignited a congressional showdown this week.
Cynthia and John Valentin, a South Carolina husband and wife who met as marines, said the total of almost 60 years they served were the best years of their lives but the corps has a very long way to go to stamp out discrimination at all levels.
I experienced gender bias and harassment at every single rank I held in the Marine Corps, and if I was getting that as a colonel, how are privates and lance corporals supposed to deal with it? There are issues they have got to fix, said Cynthia Valentin.
United States Marine Corps commandant Robert Neller is due to appear at an open hearing before the Senate armed services committee on Tuesday and a closed-door briefing in the House of Representatives on Thursday as the row continues to rage over what has become a federal criminal investigation and a crisis in military leadership.
Earlier this month uproar was sparked when it emerged that more than 30,000 current and former male marines had access to a secret Facebook page, Marines United, where pictures of female marines, many naked, were posted without their consent or, initially, their knowledge, often accompanied by sexually derogatory or violent comments.
This is not something you can rationalize away. I feel hideous about any person who has been violated like this, John Valentin said.
The Valentins took the rare step of coming forward as retired colonels to speak out together to the Guardian because they feel so strongly, they said. They pointed out that many military associations and wary current service members are opting to remain silent as the investigation unfolds.
The corps has evolved, but getting better is not good enough you are never going to get there unless you do something institutionally to change the culture. We have a very long way to go. We dont need another policy tool here, we have to change the mindsets, said John Valentin, 63.