Marines in Uniform Were Photographed at Mar-a-Lago Event. Service Says It Was for a Veterans Charity.

TrumpPresident Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate
President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate is seen in Palm Beach, Fla., Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The Marine Corps said that uniformed service members who attended an event at former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida last week were there in support of a nonprofit focused on preventing veteran suicide, not for a political fundraiser.

The service said that reserve members from the 4th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, or ANGLICO, color guard attended the April 11 event hosted by the Grey Team, a nonprofit veterans organization. The image of the Marines went viral on X, formerly Twitter, and was panned as a violation of apolitical military norms, which the Marine Corps has denied. reviewed a copy of the form requesting the Marines at the event, which said that the color guard was invited to the "America First Gala" at the request of the Grey Team's co-founder. An official familiar with the chain of command's thought process said that the request was not deemed political "solely by nature" of occurring at Mar-a-Lago during an election year.

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Mar-a-Lago serves as the base for Trump's campaign, but also hosts weddings, private events and galas, according to its website.

"The approvers of the request can accurately be described as younger Marines who in all likelihood were not aware of the implications of the term 'America First' -- or -- since the former president wasn't going to be there, decided it was nonpolitical and therefore supportable," the person familiar with the events told on Monday.

"Either way, it'd be fair to say this request probably should've gotten a little more attention, given its location and that it's an election year," they said.

Broadly, the political slogan "America First," which was most recently popularized by Trump, refers to a policy that promotes U.S. isolationism and nationalism, instead of focusing on foreign relationships and intervention. The phrase has been around for more than a century, but Trump included it as part of his official foreign policy while in the White House. reached out to the Grey Team, the veteran nonprofit. Cary Reichbach, a co-founder of the organization and Army veteran, described his organization as "100% nonpartisan."

According to the America First Gala website, all of the funds raised for the event would go directly to the Grey Team. wrote about the Grey Team in 2021.

"As a U.S. Army veteran and one of the co-founders of Grey Team, I was sickened by the number of suicides of our current service members and post-service veterans," Reichbach told via email. "So, I gathered members of the community, regardless of race, sexual orientation and political preferences, to combat this epidemic."

The image of four Marines from the 4th ANGLICO went viral online over the weekend. It shows the Marines in uniform with what appear to be gala guests.

"When the photo was taken, the Marines were not actively executing the color guard," Lt. Col. Craig Thomas, a spokesperson for Marine Forces Reserve and Marine Forces South, told via email. "They were preparing when approached by gala guests for a photo opportunity. The photo was impromptu, hence the more approachable posture."

Immediately, commenters, including former Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger, questioned whether the inclusion of uniformed service members at a political candidate's estate broke Department of Defense policy.

Pentagon policy strictly prohibits uniformed personnel from participating in political events, a touchy subject that often gets brought up during election years. The policy is meant to avoid the appearance that the military is supporting a particular candidate or political party.

"The request was reviewed by Marine Forces Reserve Community Relations and deemed eligible for support," the Marine Corps said in a statement Sunday. "The event was open to the public and helped raise awareness about military and veteran suicides.

"The event was neither a political fundraiser, nor was the 45th president of the United States in attendance," the service said.

In 2022, President Joe Biden was scrutinized for including uniformed Marines in the background of a speech in Pennsylvania, which the White House later defended.

Related: White House Says Marines at Biden Speech Meant to Show 'Respect' for Military

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