2012-07-12 / News

Supreme Court says it’s okay to lie about military service, but it’s still stolen valor

By KIP BURKE
news editor

You may have noticed last week that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Stolen Valor Act of 2005, making it now perfectly legal for people to lie and say they’ve been awarded, for instance, the Congressional Medal of Honor when they haven’t, or brag about having been a Navy SEAL or Army Ranger when they had never served.

The Court said the law was an unconstitutional abridgement of the freedom of speech, and I won’t argue that. What’s important, I think, is that the decision only affects what these low-down wannabees say, write or publish about their service, but not what they wear.

Make no mistake: it’s still a federal crime to wear uniforms and medals you haven’t earned the right to wear. The overturned Stolen Valor Act simply increased the scope of the law that made it a federal misdemeanor to make, sell or wear military medals you haven’t earned, and added the prohibition about lying about your military service, medals, or qualifications. The Supreme Court’s ruling just made the lying part legal, but impersonating a soldier or wearing medals is still a crime.

Now, if you’re one of people who try to reinvent themselves in some heroic image, you can still use Internet sites to buy uniforms, medals, and ribbons you didn’t earn. You can even wear them in public, hoping people will show you the respect you don’t deserve, but it’s still illegal, and chances are, you’ll get caught and at least humiliated if not arrested. We have the internet to thank for that. If your freedom of speech allows you to claim to be something you’re not, my freedom of speech allows me to tell everyone what a lying snake you are. And that’s happening all over now.

For a long time, fake heroes could spin their tales in their hometowns and never get caught. Then they get interviewed in the newspaper or on television news as a Medal of Honor recipient or a former SEAL, and thanks to the magic of Google Alerts, the whole world knows what they’re claiming to be. That’s when the real former SEALs and other former military people check them against official records and uncover the fakes who claim an honor so few good men have earned. These watchdog groups, Stolen Valor, AuthentiSEAL.org and VeriSEAL. org, are manned by former military men who will check out someone’ s story authoritatively. If you know a person who claims to be a SEAL or other Special Forces type, they’ll check him out for you and give you the truth. In many cases of stolen valor, even an average veteran can catch the fakes, just by the way they wear the uniform and medals. There’s a very specific place on the uniform for each ribbon, patch, and rank insignia, and wannabees usually get it wrong. More and more, we who did serve are refusing to look the other way and are taking direct action against these posers, these losers. We may or may not be able to get them arrested and charged for pretending to be something they’re not, but we can certainly expose them for what they are, and replace the glory they want with some very welldeserved public ridicule. It’s the least we can do. They’re stealing the brave reputations of real men and they should be exposed to the public scorn they richly deserve.

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