WEST POINT, NY — A group of seven cadets have been expelled from the United States Military Academy this week for violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice regarding political gestures in uniform, the Academy Public Affairs Office announced today.
Several cadets of Company L, 1st Regiment, were seen in pictures on social media of themselves with hands raised in a Roman salute. West Point Spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Kasker told reporters the academy investigated “and found the students had violated numerous rules and regulations.”
This raised arm salute has set off controversy as the photo spread virally across social media, with some claiming that it is an inappropriate political gesture, which is prohibited by Academy Regulations as well as military law. Others argue that the pose simply reflects the cadets’ sense of company pride. Company L’s mascot is the “Legionaries” and the unit has a Roman Army theme.
“It was just a ‘Hail, Caesar!’ joke,” Tony Martinetti, one of the expelled cadets, said. “‘Veni, vidi, vici!’ and stuff.”
The raised arm salute is associated with numerous historical and political movements. Some historians argue that it cannot be firmly tied to any one ideology. Roman sculptures commemorating military victories on the Arch of Titus or the Column of Trajan show Roman soldiers extending their right arm and raising it with the palm facing down in a gesture of loyalty.
It has also been depicted in Romantic Art from the 19th Century, with perhaps the best-known examples being David’s The Tennis Court Oath and The Oath of the Horatii. The raised arm salute was even used in the United States during the Pledge of Allegiance for over 50 years, before being replaced by the now-familiar hand over the heart gesture.
Academy spokesmen rejected suggestions from reporters that the gesture could have any “apolitical interpretations” as some historians have tried to explain.
One professor who asked for anonymity said, “I know Nazi stuff when I see it, and we do not tolerate Nazi crap from the Corps of Cadets. Also, this salute is very similar to manspreading, which violates our personal space and triggers our cadets that identify as female.”
The accused cadets attempted to appeal the summary sentence expulsion over the weekend, protesting that they had not been tried fairly and were being made an example of. The Office of the Superintendent opened an investigation, but rejected the appeal and upheld the sentence upon realizing that all the defendants were white males.