STOLEN VALOR: From Social Media to the Supreme Court

Fraud is fraud, whether you’re only trying to get more followers on Social Media (like Twitter), trying to get a free meal at a restaurant, or mandating government sub-prime loans based on no credit, lying is lying and is indicative of those who lack respect for others, and lack honor.

On December 20th 2006, President Bush signed The Stolen Valor Act, which outlaws “unauthorized personnel wearing, buying, selling, bartering, trading, or manufacturing any decoration or medal authorized by Congress for the United States Armed Forces, or any of the service medals or badges awarded to the members of such forces.” And in the eyes of Veterans, the law protecting valor proudly stood, that is until it reached the Supreme Court on June, 28, 2012.

The Stolen Valor Act sounds reasonable, especially considering the penalties for impersonating a federal employee. Yet on June 28, 2012; the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Stolen Valor Act in a 6 to 3 decision stating it was unconstitutional, per the First Amendment–citing Free Speech.

So, the U.S. House of Representatives then passed a new version of the Stolen Valor Act by a vote of 410-3 on September 13th 2012.

Sponsoring the new bill is Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nevada). Unlike the earlier version of the bill, it is designed to avoid “constitutional issues by clearly defining that the objective of the law is to target and punish those who misrepresent the alleged service with the intent of profiting personally or financially.”

Heck said in a floor speech. A similar version of the bill is working its way through the Senate, but Harry Reid has yet to call for a vote. The Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, Air Force Cross, Silver Star, Purple Heart and a Combat Action Ribbon are among the individual commendations encompassed in the law.

On a personal note, I don’t feel the law goes far enough.

I love the Constitution and everyone who has bled and died to defend her. I know what it’s like to have someone buy you a beer because you are in uniform. And I know, first hand, the sense of pride you feel to have earned that uniform.

The hard work it took to graduate from SCUBA school, earning the right to wear that emblem or receiving a Bronze Star in some far off land getting yourself and your team out of harms way. The price you pay is with sweat, with time spent away from loved ones, and with the pain in every part of your body—where your brain is screaming to stop, but your heart, pride & soul won’t let you.

It offends me like few things do, to know someone has so little integrity as to lie about things others have accomplished with their service to our country.  It ticks real Veterans off when non-military personnel wear a military uniform to garner praise, when in fact, they were never in the military.

Whether it is the outright lies about what you did or didn’t do, in places you did or didn’t serve, or the lies by omission to garner praise and accolades from unwitting patriots on social media sites, you are a fraud.

This brings me to those who have served.

If you were in administration, say that. If you were hurt on an obstacle, and discharged shortly after boot-camp never leaving stateside, say that. Don’t, however, allow people to think you were disabled during a period in which we are engaged in two wars, in such a manner other than what actually happened.

If the U.S. actually had all of the “SpecOps” people who claim it on twitter alone, we wouldn’t have any regular infantry, whatsoever. Should it be criminalized, perhaps not.  Publicly shamed?  In my opinion, absolutely.

Those of us who have “been there, done that” can tell the wheat from the chaff. We know who you are and yes, we know you’re a fraud.

**Update** – Outgoing Senator Jim Webb (D – VA) included an updated amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill on Monday night passing with a voice vote. This measure includes similar language as the initial Stolen Valor Act which was struck down by the Supeme Court with one key change. This amendment makes it a crime to lie about military service or honors received while obtaining “tangible benefit” in doing so.

This distinction is expected to sway the High Court in a way the initial Act did not. A similar, but not identical bill was passed in the House in September introduced by Rep. Joe Heck (R – NV)

The Webb amendment was not adopted in the House Appropriations Bill but is expected to be during conference.