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.
These 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.
Latest posts by Tom Burrell (see all)
- REVIEW: GARMONT T8 Extreme GTX – 15 October, 2018
- Fall 2018 – New Tactical Products – 1 October, 2018
- Common Pack Break Points & How to Test for Durability – 30 September, 2018