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Stolen Valor: Good Intentions May Actually Land You in Hot Water | U.S. PATRIOT NEWS & REVIEWS

Stolen Valor: Good Intentions May Actually Land You in Hot Water

Stolen Valor, or the act of wearing a military uniform or awards not earned, has always been troublesome for actual veterans but usually of little concern to ordinary citizens. While those who have never served may find the practice strange or disrespectful, it is unlikely any will take a stand against it. But, those who have served find these pretend warriors more than disrespectful, they find it personally offensive and few think twice about taking a stand against it when witnessed live and in person.  Unfortunately, taking a stand can actually result in you facing legal action.

Regardless of which branch you served and when you wore your uniform, you share some valuable traits with every Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Airman or Coast Guardsman who came before you. Topping this list is a sense of honor and this is what causes you to stand a bit straighter when the Star Spangled Banner plays or Old Glory marches past. This sense of honor is also what causes your blood to boil when you encounter a pretender, or impersonator, wearing the uniform you and your comrades earned or witness them bragging about exploits you know to be false.

Stolen ValorThese acts of Stolen Valor are not new, just newly publicized. This increased publicity has also increased the number of conflicts between veterans and these want-to-be pretenders. In the vast majority of cases, the pretender either backs down and admits they are a fraud or provides a series of entertaining lies as they attempt to justify obvious mistakes pointed out to them as they sneak away for a “secret mission.” But, sometimes they turn the tables on the whistle blower and, when this happens, the veteran can actually face legal fall out. The most recent case involves a former soldier who called out an impersonator, in full uniform, who he observed eating lunch in a college cafeteria. While accounts differ, it is agreed that the soldier became loud and the imposter was embarrassed in public. What the soldier did not know is that the individual he confronted filed a complaint with the school administration and local law enforcement. Now, the veteran is facing expulsion and possible charges for harassment.

Many of you are asking “Why?” believing he did what any one of us would do. “How can he be the one in trouble when it was the other one who is guilty of Stolen Valor?” Unfortunately, it is not that simple and doing the right thing is not always right in the eyes of the law or civilian administrators. What many people do not understand is that simply wearing a uniform, or even claiming to be a veteran, is not by itself illegal. Although the original Stolen Valor Act, passed in 2005, did make such actions illegal, that was later found to be unconstitutional as the U.S. Supreme Court felt it was too vague. The Stolen Valor Act of 2013 addressed the court’s concerns by again stating such acts were illegal but ONLY if the impostor attempts to gain some type of financial gain by doing so.

What this means is that if a fake Sailor wears a uniform in public in an attempt to solicit money, obtain veteran benefits or even take advantage of a store’s military discount, then they have committed a crime. However, if they are simply dressed in an unearned uniform displaying a wide array of mismatched awards and patches to gain attention he is , as the court determined, exercising his First Amendment rights – and if you confront him and harass him in a public place, YOU may be the only one guilty of a crime. It’s not right but, as is often the case, the law protects the wrongdoer; just don’t let it get you while doing so.

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.

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell
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2 thoughts on “Stolen Valor: Good Intentions May Actually Land You in Hot Water

  1. There s a reasonably active vets community on the Internet seeking to ‘out’ these frauds. There may be the opportunity to try to engage the fraud in conversation, learn as much as you can about them, and then report them to as many stolen valor websites as you can. If the fraud is stupid enough to tell you where they actually work, you could always complain to their boss.

    I know if I had such a fraud working for me, I would welcome being told about it. The first thing i would do is go back and check what the fraud told me when I hired them. If they lie about their military service, then they probably lied in their job application too. I would happily cu such a peron loose.

  2. Nothing new here. Just another chapter showing how little this country’s elected officials care about the people who protected them. They stand and give “lip service” touting how much veteran concerns mean to them. We see the garbage with the VA. The majority of people will say veteran problems are sad but will not lift a finger to help make a change. As a Cold War veteran I can more than understand the feeling of abandonment that all veterans feel when looking at the way the government handles issues concerning them and their service. The private sector doesn’t fair much better. More times than not you hear ” that’s a shame” or “really what does it matter”. It matters. Ask a vet.

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