Civilians in Uniform – Why Stolen Valor Continues to Make Headlines

As the United States and NATO missions in Afghanistan transition away from combat operations, the number of stolen valor videos, pictures, and claims continue to increase. What draws so much attention towards this from both service members and media alike, and what can be done about it?

A 2014 Gallup poll identified that confidence in the military tops “74% of Americans having either a great deal of confidence or quite a lot of confidence in the institution.” (Riffkin, 2014). This places them at the top of the list above organized religion, the police, and even the presidency. With 99.5% of the United States abstaining from military service, and more than 14 years of constant warfare on the part of the 0.5%, seeing someone wearing a uniform they should not be – matters.

Stolen Valor ActIt is not just the wearing of unearned awards that bothers us. It is the fact that someone who did not sacrifice has the audacity to wear the uniform seeking honors in the first place. Even service members who have not deployed are subject to multiple PCS moves, months away from family, unpredictable work hours, and stress – all in service for their country.  As is the case with most military professions, shared misery creates shared comradery. When a service member gives their all, day in and day out, the uniform may feel like a burden to them, but they continue to wear it because they are serving their community and country.

When the military becomes a revered institution, people will look up to its members and wish to be one. As the gap between civilians and the military continues to widen, those who choose not to join may decide to put the uniform on as well. To service members, this is the ultimate form of personal disrespect. For the civilian who does not understand the issue – it would be comparable to wearing a police uniform when you are in fact, not a police officer.

Service members have sacrificed their lives fighting for this country both here and abroad. Our heartbreak makes the back pages of newspapers and passing remarks on the news, but to the people who serve, it is as though we have all lost a brother or a sister in arms. The uniform, besides a direct representation of our service branch, is our shared experience, and one that we willingly perform together.

Some retired service members actively search for stolen valor cases, catching politicians, community leaders, and citizens alike. Others see someone wearing the uniform incorrectly and make an on the spot correction, only to realize that the individual is not actually in the military. No matter how it is discovered, it is important to realize that there is a law against it. H.R.258 the Stolen Valor act of 2013 states that it is illegal to “inten[d] to obtain money, property, or other tangible benefit, [by] fraudulently hold[ing] himself or herself out to be a recipient of

  • a Congressional Medal of Honor,
  • a distinguished-service cross,
  • a Navy cross,
  • an Air Force cross,
  • a silver star,
  • a Purple Heart,
  • a Combat Infantryman’s Badge,
  • a Combat Action Badge,
  • a Combat Medical Badge,
  • a Combat Action Ribbon,
  • a Combat Action Medal, or
  • any replacement or duplicate medal for such medal as authorized by law.”

So what can you do? If you are a business representative and believe someone is trying to use the uniform to gain unearned military benefits, ask to see their military identification. If they do not have it, tell them you cannot provide military benefits without supporting identification. If you see them on the street, while you may be inclined to become aggressive, do not find yourself on the wrong side of the law by threatening to harm them. Inform them that the uniform is authorized for wear by service members, and if you feel they are breaking the law as posted above, feel free to contact your local police to help resolve the situation.

At the end of the day, honoring someone for their dedicated service is just fine, but claiming those honors without serving is likely breaking both local and federal law, as well as dishonoring the very service members they are claiming to be a part of.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Kyle Soler

Kyle Soler is an active duty Infantry Officer serving in the US Army. He has served in the military for more than 10 years, working his way from an Infantry Squad Leader to a Company Commander with multiple combat deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan in between. Kyle earned his bachelor’s degree in History from Willamette University, and three Master degrees from Jones International University in Information Security Management, Health Care Management, and International Business. He also holds certifications in Six Sigma Lean and Six Sigma Lean Black Belt. His primary focus is realigning organizational priorities to get the most out of the time available in terms of training and development. Prior to entering military service, he worked as a fire fighter and an EMT. His areas of knowledge include military, training, leadership, disaster and continuity planning.
Kyle Soler

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6 thoughts on “Civilians in Uniform – Why Stolen Valor Continues to Make Headlines

  1. Alright, I am going to be in the minority here, but honestly, I feel both parties are ridiculous. I agree 110% it should be a law to impersonate a veteran and cops right then and there should be able to look up a guy and see if he was ever in the DOD. Medal chasers can screw off because now you are just reliving the old days of trying to haze some boot because you don’t trust him.

    When I was in the usmc reserves, there was a guy who impersonated being a Corporal and a recipient of a purple heart. Was he a marine? Yes. Was he self promoting himself only one rank above that of lance criminal? Yes. Did he deploy? Not to my knowledge, NOR DO I LOOSE SLEEP OVER IT. But was he standing guard, acting gate duty as a private next month? AAAAYES. This has honestly become an unhealthy obsession of elitism for service members/vets to lose their minds over. While I do think veterans should receive annually (READ YEARLY) Thank you in terms of a parade, minor discounts/free food, a thank you with handshake and smile, AND THE RESPECT NOT TO INTERFERE/IMPERSONATE MILITARY PERSONNEL, that’s all I think the general public owes them. Yes, it would be nice if they put themselves in our boots so to speak to understand, but the military is not the military because everyone joins. I think this lame government we have should do more out of anybody both in terms of rewarding vets and taking preventative measures to curb the wannabes who want a fruit salad/cripple walk from how heavy one side is from their innumerable medals.

    Look, all I got is a firewatch ribbon and had I not been medically discharged, a good cookie. I was born with something they should have caught at MEPS, boo ****ing HOO! No one gives a rat’s *** about my service outside my parents as no vet outside my brother (2 tours to Iraq) has ever thanked me for my service nor do they need to. I don’t get veteran’s day off as well as tons of vets who have deployed must work as well on their day supposedly off. SHOULD VETS GET VETERANS DAY OFF? Sure, honestly why not? (okay, the one OTHER thing the general public owes them is not getting veteran’s day off if they didn’t serve). What about those of us who don’t rate a DD214 like myself? (still drilled and prepped for 3 years with my unit and go talk to S-1 admin if you don’t buy it) Should I get the green weenie once again because the system is stupid? DFAS already hit me up demanding $400 for the life insurance (SGLI) my unit forgot to cancel, why not more **** **** games?

    Let’s put things into perspective here Mr. Soler. You have an undisclosed amount of combat deployments, a decade plus of service in the Army, 3 degrees, a black belt, several certifications, and you use to be an EMT as well as a fire fighter??? I’m not here to tell you what you have done or haven’t, but realize you are fueling the fire for people to come on the internet or out in public and claim whatever they want. You are bragging whether that was your intention or not in the eyes of the wannabe’s.

    TL;DR If you have the desire to serve, awesome! The military and every other institution should start teaching classes on humility because it’s astonishing how cataclysmal in the idiocy department this is becoming! Kind of hard to talk about value and honor when you are also talking about beheading the very person you swore to defend, dumbass or not.

  2. ^^^ it should be a law to NOT BE ABLE TO impersonate military personnel.

    No matter how many times you proof read something, there is always the one thing that slips by you

  3. THATguy,

    Thanks for the comment. I joined for personal reasons and it always has left me confused how to respond when someone says “thank you for your service.” “You too” does not really fit, and “Thank you…for…not…serving?” seems awkward in of itself.

    At the end of the day, some people want a pat on the back, others want a government that supports. So whatever they provide in terms of rules, regulations, or support is in actuality their retention technique and it is up to the person to decide if they want to stay in or get out.

    As far as for me? I simply love school. When I finish something I usually pick something new up from the educational side. It is my hobby as much as hiking or snowboarding might be someone else’s. Of course I could always make wild claims, but a simple phone call is enough to validate truth or otherwise. Yesterday was Six Sigma because making things more efficient sounded fascinating. Today it is Microsoft Access because I am tired of watching people enter data into 25 different trackers and have to edit them all. One is simply an extension of the other.

    Have a great day and thanks for posting!

  4. Mr Soler,

    I wish I had your dedication and motivation to learn that much. Regardless of the craziness that is our current day and age, I will say thank you for your service, both in and out of uniform as well as the interesting, albeit controversial subject matters you have for uspatriottactical.

    God Bless

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