Can someone be Court Martialed for a Sunburn?

My dad, who is known as a joker at times, told me this.

If you’re in the military and you get a sunburn that requires medical treatment, you will be court martialed for damaging government property. He says that since the government has spend a lot of money to train you and care for you, you belong to them and if you’re sunburned, it’s due to carelessness.

Is that true?

I call B.S.

I serve in the military, and have done lots of stupid things. One of the stupid things I did caused me to injure my back very slightly, requiring some pain killers. I went to the doctor on base, got my prescription, and went back to work. My boss, a major, came by my cubicle, said “look Jurph – that was really dumb. Don’t do it again, okay?”

This is the most common form of discipline in the military. We call it “informal counseling.”

Courts Martial are reserved for serious infractions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

I had heard that same chestnut, practically word-for-word as you describe, when I was going to a Navy school in Orlando in 1984. Someone (school staff) told me that when I came back from a day at the beach in Daytona, where I had fallen asleep on the beach. Lobster-boy red, for several days I was.

I’m with Jurph on this. Ask your father if he ever knew (personally, not friend-of-a-friend) who was court martialed for any type of injury not received in the line of duty. I know I haven’t, and people hurt themselves all the time.

I’ve heard that same notion – that a military person’s body is somehow “government property” – being raised as the reason why it’s officially illegal to get tatoos while you’re in the military. A former U.S. Navy petty officer buddy of mine told me that one. Is there any truth to that rumor?

That happened to a guy in my command. The Cheif Master-at-arms bawled the guy out & threatened to write him up under article 134.

UCMJ: Uniform Code of Military Justice

I cannot imagine that this is true. Most of the Marines I know have tatoos that they got while being active duty marines. It is not a huge sample about 5 most of them Veitnam vets. My cousin is currently a Marine and his are pretty prominant. So It is not a question of don’t ask don’t tell.

I’d never heard that tattoos were illegal per se but if they get infected, you run the risk of getting written up under Article 134.

Basically, if you do anything stupid or careless you run the risk of getting written up under Article 134.

They could write you up for anything stupid that you do that ends up making yourself unavailable for duty. I have never heard of anyone actually getting in trouble for a tattoo or sunburn though.

I’m a disabled veteran. 10% disabled.

I blew my knee out playing football. In Vietnam.

No punishment, no warnings, no nothing.

As long as what you are doing is legal there is nothing they can do.

Sure…if you fail to repay the debt you owe.

I see now that are tons of offenses covered by article 134.

My apologies.

Too man or too obscene tattoos are (or were in peacetime) grounds for discharge (or to prohibit enlistment). Make yourself unable to do your duty by self-mutilation, purposely getting a sunburn or (I guess) getting a huge DEATH TO ISLAM tattoo on your forehead would be grounds for some sort of UCMJ action.

(But, most things I type today seem to be wrong, so take that with a grain of salt.)

Members of the military are not – I say again – are not government property. Whoever told you that they are is in error.

Just an old joke, told so many times people believe it.

When I was in Air Force Junior ROTC in high school, we were told you could not have tatoos that were visible while you were in uniform (since they’re not allowed as part of the uniform, while a wristwatch or a wedding ring would be allowed). I’m assuming this would be the same in the military. Most tatoos I’ve seen most guys carrying around tended to be on the upper arm or back, so pretty much any kind of short-sleeved shirt would cover that up handily.

My mom related to me a story of a girl in the Air Force who went out drinking with a bunch of her friends, got blized, and woke up the next morning to find she had a tatoo of a red rose running down her entire arm. She apparantly didn’t get in trouble, but from then on she could only wear long-sleeved uniforms so as to keep the tatoo concealed while uniform.

As for getting court-marshalled for a sunburn, perhaps if you intentionally laid out in your skivvies in a parking lot in Houston during July in order to get a bad enough burn to get out of some unpleasant duty (presumably more unpleasant than a large number of first and second degree burns on your body) then I’m sure they could think of something along the lines of rendering yourself unfit for duty.

Pretty far fetched I say.

The only possible way you might get in trouble for getting a sunburn would be if it could be proved that you got a sunburn requiring hospitalization in order to avoid a hazardous duty.

Article 115 (Malingering):

Which is not the same thing as saying anyone who gets a sunburn will be court-martialed, and still less that servicemembers are “government property”.

I probably should have said “serious trouble.” You could get what used to be called “company punishment”, extra duty, no confined to post, etc. if you were malingering.

Granted that this is not actually true, is it the sort of thing that a tough-guy DI might tell his men, in order to intimidate them? I can easily picture R. Lee Ermey yelling at a bunch of privates that their bodies are government property.