Stolen valor. Do I care about the law?
posted at 8:40 pm on August 18, 2010 by Jazz Shaw
The news which came out this week concerning the 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco ruling that the Stolen Valor law is not constitutional hit pretty hard for me. (For the record, the 10th Circuit Court in Denver has held the door open for appeal.) In case you missed it, the ruling essentially protects the “free speech” of people claiming to have earned military medals which they did not receive.
I should say right up front that, while I am a veteran, I didn’t earn any of the really “big medals.” I enlisted when I was 17, but the Vietnam war was pretty much over except for the cleanup operations and I wound up spending most of it serving under Carter. (Don’t ask. I don’t want to go there.) I got some of the usual, garden variety medals that most anyone can earn… good conduct, Pacific deployment, sharpshooter. But I wasn’t in any of the kind of action that qualifies one for the rewards under discussion in this court case. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hit me hard. You see, my father was a different story. (Along with many other men in my family.)
My dad served in the Army in World War 2 in one of General George Patton’s “Vulture Squads” in France and Germany. (Our host, Ed Morrissey, has had a peek at my father’s grave and military markers.) On one of his many trips up and down the advance line he arrived in time for the relief of Bastogne. There he – and several of his buddies – ate the shrapnel from a tank shell.
My dad came home with a bronze star and a purple heart because he spent one Christmas day long ago far from home lying in a pool of blood on a frozen field so you could all be free. My dad was a real American hero – a title I have never claimed nor would I ever try to do so. So you can see, this situation has a bit of a personal import for me.
A law was passed at one point making it a crime for people to falsely claim medals such as this, as well as the vastly more revered Congressional Medal of Honor. And now the courts seem to be ruling that lying about such things is part of our constitutionally assured rights to free speech.
I’m having a bad day because of this. I’m one of those annoying people who anger my friends on both sides of the aisle when I defend the constitution, even when portions of it become annoying. And I appreciate our right to free speech. Yes, I understand that to restrict such speech you need to show “damages” to somebody else. But doesn’t falsely claiming to hold the CMOH do damage to those who really earned it, along with their families? Perhaps, but what damages? How do we define it?
I have no answers. I’m probably wrong in the eyes of the courts and, for that matter, in terms of the constitution. I just know I’m angry. And I’m not currently in the mood to apologize. If you go around claiming these medals – for whatever reason – and you never served and you never earned them… you’re a scumbag. I don’t know if you should go to jail for it, but you deserve to have your butt beaten into the ground.
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