Veteran's Voice: Very Little Legislation Exists for a Growing Concern Among Veterans

Category:  News
Wednesday, February 24th, 2016 at 9:44 PM
Veteran's Voice: Very Little Legislation Exists for a Growing Concern Among Veterans by George Schmidt
Despite some legislation, stolen valor still persists is today’s society. Stolen valor is when people buy uniforms or awards to wear so they can impress people around them.

Almost since military members started to return from the Revolutionary War, there has been this debate about stolen valor.

Stolen valor is when a person imitates a service member or wears medals the individual is not authorized to wear to gain profit or services they would not be otherwise entitled to.

Even within the military’s own ranks, there is a divide between the Grunts (actual combat soldiers) and P.O.G.s (Personnel Other than Grunts), which are your supply soldiers, maintenance guys and a myriad of other roles.

Grunts always state that the P.O.G.s are trying to steal their glory or want to be a grunt, which isn’t true as a blanket statement. However, there some PX warriors out there that go out and purchase a bunch of awards they didn’t earn. They want to wear these awards when they get home to impress their friends in hopes of attracting a potential mate.

A saying has been passed down that usually holds true: “If a soldier talks a lot about the action they’ve seen they probably didn’t and if a soldier doesn’t talk about it they have seen too much.”

The first of these attempts at legislating this into law was the Stolen Valor Act of 2005. The 2005 Stolen Valor Act was by all accounts too strict. The act was meant to protect servicemen from imposters and made it a fineable offense.

Legion.org had reported, “The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the original Stolen Valor Act of 2005, deeming it unconstitutional because it was, in the justices’ opinion, too broad in scope and violated the right of free speech.”

The congressmen went back at it and revised the act into the Stolen Valor Act of 2013. According to Military.com, “The Stolen Valor Act of 2013 was introduced into the House by Rep. Joe Heck…who has said ‘the awards, like the men and women who earned them, are worthy of respect.’” President Obama signed this act into law in June of 2013.

In her article in The LA Times, Maura Dolan reported the 11-person panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a verdict in the case of Elven Joe Swisher. Swisher was convicted under the Stolen Valor Act because he wore a Purple Heart medal while testifying in a criminal court case.

Dolan states the reason for the ruling is “The panel found that wearing a medal conveys a message, which is protected by the 1st Amendment.”

I believe this is the true heart of the matter. When you wear the uniform of the United States military, it means something. It holds value and it definitely conveys a message. As veterans, we want to protect that image, that message.

Even in Hollywood, they get the U.S. uniform wrong on purpose so that the actors in the film are not wearing something they didn’t earn. Granted, these wrong uniforms are only slightly altered in a way where the common movie goer would not notice, but a service member or a veteran will notice it and usually will annoyingly point it out at the inopportune moment.

I am very open and honest about my military service. I do not try to over glorify anything I did or saw. I know there are many, many others that had it worse than I did or saw way more violent things than I did.

Sometimes though, veterans get too overzealous in protecting that image and they get it wrong. Like in the case of Robert Ford from Marysville, Pennsylvania. He is a former Marine that was wrongfully accused of stolen valor. The event happened on Memorial Day last year in Harrisburg at the Arts Fest they hold every year.

Ford was approached by a police officer and an active army soldier because “Something about Ford’s uniform looked fishy,” according to an article written by Christine Vendel of pennlive. com.

Basically, the officer and the soldier questioned Ford about his uniform and were not satisfied with his answers. They continued to question him and that’s when tempers flared and expletives were used.

It was later found that Ford’s uniform was in order and that he was telling the truth about his service. It boils down to people being truthful. As veterans, we cannot stand fake people or outright liars, especially when it comes to the service and the awards given to the men and women who earned them.

Everyone has the right to free speech. But if you use the military uniform to try and make a statement and you look like an idiot, you may get called out for it.

Because that is my right to free speech.

George Schmidt is a Staff Writer for The Spectator.

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