JACKSONVILLE, ONSLOW COUNTY - An Onslow County pastor said he did not mean to offend Marines when he posted photos of him wearing a Dress Blue uniform.
Pastor Michael Claiborne, of New Rivers Ministries on Marine Boulevard in Jacksonville, had posted photos on his church's Facebook page of him wearing a Dress Blue uniform he got from a thrift store. But the photos caused an uproar among the military community, who said Claiborne was disrespecting the Marine Corps.
Claiborne, a civilian with no ties to the Marine Corps, told NewsChannel 12 he did not intend to offend anyone.
"It was not out of disrespect. I have military in my church," Claiborne said.
Claiborne added that he supports the military, and has participated in 9/11 events honoring service members.
But Marine Sgt. Anthony Ortiz said Dress Blues are only worn on special occasions, like weddings, funerals and important ceremonies.
"It's definitely something that draws a lot of emotion because there are a lot of people that, you know, your friends who get blown up, lose a hand, lose an arm, lose their life-- and Dress Blues along with all the other uniforms, I mean, that's our uniform," said Sgt. Ortiz.
Claiborne has since taken the photos down after being urged by the military community.
"Please cease and desist immediately the desecration of the United States Marine Corps dress uniform," Joel Kaplan posted on Claiborne's Facebook page. "It is a federal crime to impersonate a member of the United States military and you should be charged.... As a united States Army veteran, I hereby ORDER you you to remove the uniform of my brothers."
"Your photo desecrates my beloved U.S.M.C. From your perspective, that might have not been your intention... But that blouse you sport --accompanied with the religious relic and hat-- burns to the bones and soul of very man and woman who served," posted Robert Mark. "It would be like taking a priest cloth and sporting it like it was a scarf, waist satchel or bandana."
Claiborne's wife, Lisa, told NewsChannel 12 that in addition to the comments, she and her husband have been getting death threats as well.
But Sgt. Ortiz said those negative comments are not what Marines are all about.
"We need to be bigger than that," Ortiz said. "We are United States Marines, and we have to live at a different standard."
Lisa added that military uniforms like Dress Blues are widely available.
"You can go to any garage sale. You can go to any pawn shop. You can go to any thrift shop. You can go to anywhere in the United States and purchase-- any cleaners-- and purchase it," Lisa said.