Vital Signs

False Colors: The Case of Michael New

Until last summer, Michael New was an unknown 22-year-old Army medic, three years into his eight-year enlistment contract. But in August, New learned that he and his battalion were being assigned to Macedonia, where they would serve under the operational control of the United Nations commander, and wear the baby blue U.N. beret and a U.N, patch on their uniforms. At that news this missionary's son from Conroe, Texas, balked. How could it be legal for him to wear a foreign uniform, he asked his captain, and serve under foreign command?

Lt. Col. Stephen R. Layfield, who is in charge of the battalion, reacted by promising New he would face a court martial if he disobeyed. Ordered to fall out in the beret and patch on October 10, New, alone among the 550 members of his battalion, did not. He wore his U.S. Army combat dress uniform without any additions. In response, Lt. Col. Layfield made good on his promise: the Army held a hearing on New's case in Wuerzburg, Germany, in late January. New was found to have refused a lawful order and was given a bad conduct discharge.

In some ways the sentence was lenient; he could have been jailed. Instead, while his battalion went to Macedonia, New remained in Germany, working with full pay as a file clerk and waiting for the review of his court martial.

As this article went to press, the convening authority who will review that court martial, Maj. Gen. Montgomery Meigs,...

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