Soldier who made videos calling a Medal of Honor recipient a racist claims he was demoted for his beard

An Army non-commissioned officer with a significant following on TikTok recently found himself at the center of controversy following the loss of a leadership position— igniting a heated online debate that underscores the tensions regarding military grooming standards, the impact of social media expression, and perceived biases within the US Armed Forces.

Master Sergeant Darhem Parker, who had been elevated to the rank of first sergeant within the Hawaii-based Alpha Company, 29th Brigade Engineer Battalion, shared his excitement in a TikTok video on April 30.

In the video, he showcased his command photo, pointing to his beard and distinctive haircut.

“Somebody in real life is going to see that picture on their wall and be pissed off,” he commented.

The remark hinted at potential backlash but also at Parker’s own awareness of his unconventional appearance by Army standards.

However, just days after the May 2 post, Parker received counseling from his battalion sergeant major regarding his online behavior.

In a subsequent interview, Parker admitted to some reservations about his approach in the video.

“When I look back on it, I cringe when I say I agree, but I ain’t always right,” he said.

Parker conceded that his demeanor in the video could have been moderated and that it came across in a way that would likely not be well-received by all.

He also created controversy with his videos in which he claimed Medal of Honor recipient Audie Murphy was a racist for taking roles in Western films but this was not something mentioned in his counseling.

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The counseling unexpectedly extended beyond his online activities, eventually covering his physical appearance.

Parker, who was directed to retake his command photo, was urged to conform to more traditional grooming standards, despite having a medical waiver for his beard.

Throughout this period, Parker was transitioning into his new role with the support of the 29th BEB command team, who had not previously objected to his appearance.

During his counseling, Parker was informed that someone outside the direct chain of command had influenced the battalion’s perception of him, leading to a reassessment of his suitability for the leadership position.

Despite these challenges, Parker found an ally in Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Haynie of the 25th Infantry Division, who reassured him that his appearance met the Army’s grooming standards and that his advocacy for soldiers with shaving waivers was commendable.

Te support seemed to momentarily resolve the issue until May 7, when Parker was informed by his battalion commander that he would not be stepping into the first sergeant role, due in part to perceptions of him taunting others on TikTok.

The fallout from Parker’s video and the subsequent actions taken by his superiors highlight a broader discussion about the role of social media in the military and its potential to impact careers.

A scroll of Parker’s social media reveals that he at one point insinuated that Medal of Honor recipient Audie Murphy was a racist, simply because he played the part in periodical acting roles during his post-military film career.

Coming to Parker’s defense , the “Army W.T.F! Moments” Facebook page, with its wide reach, has been active in discussing Parker’s situation and the general policy on beards within the military, obsessively posting photos of US Army Soldiers in beards.

In the midst of this controversy, the Army continues to grapple with its policies on personal appearance and social media use, illustrating the ongoing struggle to balance individual rights with institutional standards.

Parker’s bizarre and high-profile case demonstrates how quickly and significantly social media activity can alter a Soldier’s career trajectory— especially when it intersects with sensitive issues of race and appearance standards.

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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