Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Unearned Valor--or at least claiming such is OK

Stars & Stripes reports that
A federal appeals court on Monday tossed out a veteran's conviction for wearing military medals he didn't earn, saying it was a form of free speech protected by the Constitution.
A specially convened 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the First Amendment allows people to wear unearned military honors.
There is some history to this case and the Stolen Valor Act.
Elven Joe Swisher of Idaho was convicted in 2007 of violating the Stolen Valor Act, which made it a misdemeanor to falsely claim military accomplishments. . . . prosecutors showed the jury a photograph of Swisher wearing several military medals and awards, including the Silver Star, Navy and Marine Corps Ribbon, Purple Heart, and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with a Bronze "V." (emphasis added).
Here is a link to United States v. Swisher, decided by the Ninth on 11 January 2016.  In deciding the case the court evaluated the facts in light of Alvarez.  In 2012, in a 6-3 majority opinion:
The Supreme Court struck down the Stolen Valor Act today, saying that the First Amendment defends a person's right to lie -- even if that person is lying about awards and medals won through military service.
The case started in 2007 when California man Xavier Alvarez was convicted under the Stolen Valor Act of 2006 -- federal legislation that made it illegal for people to claim to have won or to wear military medals or ribbons they did not earn. Alvarez had publicly claimed to have won the country's highest military award, the Medal of Honor, but was later revealed to have never served in the military at all.
See United States v. Alvarez (also a case from the 9th Cir.).  And see Wikipedia for more history on the Stolen Valor Act of 2005.

A new Act was  passed.which attempted to tie much more closely the wearing of the medals with obtaining something of value--a fraud. There are many ways a veteran, especially a combat veteran may gain something of value for "free" in the U.S. Many businesses give discounts (for example, 10% on my cigars at JR's) or free products, hotel rooms, lunch.

It's an emotional issue.
"Nothing fires me up more than running into these phony Navy SEALs and knowing that I lost over a dozen friends that sacrificed for their country and now these guys are out there trying to take credit," Webb said.
There are a number of websites and organizations dedicated to exposing fake heroes.  Here is the Wikipedia entry on the Stolen Valor Act 2013.

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