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There was a strange event in the St. Louis area, an area that is already on high alert for a variety of reasons.

With the imminent Ferguson Grand Jury announcement, tensions are certainly high for everybody.

But what was normal curious behavior by a hotel employee and Navy veteran has been labeled as “domestic terrorism.”

A few days ago a resident of Saint Charles, MO, Mark Paffrath, a three-year Navy veteran who served in the Middle East was fired from a local hotel chain where he has worked as a housekeeper for the last year and a half.

Mark noticed a line of Department of Homeland Security vehicles parked in a covered parking area of the hotel in Chesterfield. He states that he thought it was quite an odd thing to see, so he snapped pictures and video and posted it online.

Mark stated that he wondered if the massive number of DHS vehicles had anything to do with the Ferguson “unrest.”

This is a valid query under the circumstance, so I understand Mark’s curiosity. However, in my opinion he displayed poor judgment in posting the pictures and video.

As a veteran who served in the Middle East, Mark has first handle knowledge of what is at stake,as his training should have taught him to recognize the implication of seeing hundreds of federal anything in an unusual location. Yet he made a judgment call, ignoring his training, which could have sacrificed a “mission.” Mark joined a millennial generation who rushes to be “the first to post.”

As an employee of the hotel chain, Mark had an obligation to maintain secrecy of all elements of the hotel’s business, the same way we expect hotels not to give out guest information or activities, for example. Mark violated that covenant when he chose to post the pictures and video to his Facebook page.

Hotel management called him into the office the next day and instructed him to remove them, to which he complied without issue.

However, the following day Mark’s employment was immediately terminated by the Head of Security for the hotel chain.

It’s no secret the Department of Homeland Security has been chewing off its own foot in recent years when it comes to trust from the American people; I share the sentiment.

However, I do not doubt the DHS goal, passion, and strategy when it comes to defending our country against terrorists and securing our freedom.

I researched the Head of Security for the hotel, and he has a long history in law enforcement and federal service, so I understand the passion he displayed towards Mark’s posting. He was a St. Louis County Police Officer for nearly 10 years, he then left to serve as Assistant Special Agent in-Charge for the US Secret Service for 20 years.

Given his background, this man undoubtedly has a deeper understanding and appreciation for what is going on in the St. Louis area, and even more so what potential threats exist globally to this area.

I acknowledge the opportunity for terrorists to utilize riots as an open door to deliver an attack on the US. This is a very real and viable scenario and one that only a liberal would ignore.

But what bothers me are the comments made by the Head of Security to Mark in that termination meeting:

“You’re a terrorist and you have dishonorably served your country by posting the photos and video”

I would expect someone with the aforementioned extensive experience to have weighed the intent of Mark’s actions when accusing him of being a “terrorist” and telling him that he has “dishonorably served his country.”

I again disagree with Mark’s choice to post; however, I fail to see a deliberate terrorist link in his actions. I find it deplorable that the Head of Security would throw around a service member’s honor so casually. There is undoubtedly a better way to convey the gravity of Mark’s actions.

“Posts like these photos and video could have the federal government knocking on your door, with high probability that you would be incarcerated”.

It would appear that with so much riding on this for Jim, both professionally and personally, that maybe the prism in which he is seeing seemingly stupid actions, by a young housekeeper, is laced with so much threat from outside sources that the response was blurred on this one.

I read this morning that Mark is trying to initiate a boycott against the hotel chain. The Black Sphere team is a longtime colleague and supporter of the hotel chain in question. They are a staple here in Missouri and do so many generous and wonderful things for the community. Further, this is not a hotel issue, as it was a DHS issue.

So, it would be a disservice to impugn the hotel in any way, as Mark is considering with his boycott. The hotel did its job, fulfilled an agreement to support a client, in this case law enforcement; the people at all levels working tirelessly to ensure the safety of us all.

I disagree with the things said to Mark. I am appreciative and thankful for his service in the United States Navy. But I believe Mark made a bad judgment call in posting the pics and video, and usually bad judgment has consequences. I would hope a man of honor and service understands and ultimately accepts responsibility for his actions.

Perhaps the hotel should review its policies on what constitutes confidentiality, in order to prevent such missteps in the future? And more importantly, the people in charge should be careful with the lexicon. Mark made a mistake, but his actions don’t deserve to be labeled “terrorism.”


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