Valor earned, not stolen.
This Veteran’s Day 2010 prods us to remember the valor of an estimated 24.9 million Americans who, at some time during their lives: “wrote blank checks to Uncle Sam vowing to serve wherever and however ordered.”
The time, location, and conditions were announced later and the commitments faithfully fulfilled.
Charles Buckles is the only surviving World-War I veteran.
WW-II veterans, the VA estimates, are passing away at the rate of about 1100 per day.
Korea, Vietnam, Dominican Republic, Panama Canal, Kosovo, Iraq, Iran, and a hundred other battlefields witness that “all gave some…and some gave all.”
Woe is to those that “steal their valor” by posing in unauthorized uniforms and sporting unearned medals.
Army Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta demonstrated uncommon bravery in Afghanistan during an Oct 25, 2007 firefight in the Korengal Valley thereby earning the Medal of Honor becoming the first such hero since the Vietnam War to survive.
Fighting in Afghanistan has devolved into small-unit tactics which place a premium on the intelligence, courage, and endurance of individual infantry troops stationed in small camps throughout contested areas.
It is not enough to take the geographical terrain. Soldiers must remain, thereby providing continued security and support for anti terrorism to secure the political terrain.
Sergeant Giunta was part of such a unit when his patrol was attacked by the bad guys.
In spite of being shot in the torso, he continued to fight, protected two of his comrades that were down, and chased down two enemies that were dragging one of the Americans off to hell.
His view of his conduct? “Every single person I was with would have done what I did, possibly even better, but they were doing other things…I did what I believe anyone would have done.”
Sadly not true.
Take the cases of two kooks in California:
A guy from Ramona showed up at the local VFW Post wearing the uniform of a 2-star Marine general and sporting a chest full of medals he never earned including two Purple Hearts and five Legion of Merits. The guy had served in the military but had not earned the rank or decorations, so he knew what he was doing was wrong.
He pled guilty to violating the Federal the “Stolen Valor Act” which makes it a misdemeanor to wear any military decorations or badges not actually authorized.
Another kooky Californian went further and claimed to have been awarded the same Medal of Honor that Sergeant Giunta earned at the peril of his life.
But contrary to our local bozo, Xavier Alvarez didn’t have the decency to be ashamed when fingered.
Instead, he appealed his guilty plea to the Federal 9th Circuit Court and guess what…yep, that court struck down the Stolen Valor Act saying in effect that “people have a right to lie about their military service.”
Alvarez is an admitted serial liar which paid off in an elected office: a seat on the Three-Valleys Water District.
When introduced to the board, he recounted that he had served 25 years in the Marine Corps and earned the Medal of Honor.
Speaking for the majority of the appellate panel, Federal Judge Milan D. Smith found that the Stolen Valor Act was overbroad; failed to state of compelling public danger; and (I am not making this up) “The Act therefore concerns us because of its POTENTIAL for SETTING A PRECEDENT whereby governments may proscribe speech SOLELY BECAUSE IT IS A LIE.” (Emphases mine).
A “potential for setting a precedent” and “solely a lie” are elements of a specious rationale to strike down a law duly enacted by the Congress under its authority to operate the Armed Forces.
This law is not overbroad. It articulates precisely what speech is proscribed: misrepresenting specific military awards, nothing more or less.
The law is not deficient because it fails to list a parade of horrors if violated because there is no requirement to do so.
Yes certainly criminalizing speech should be reviewed under a standard of “strict scrutiny” but this statute easily passes that test.
There is no redeeming social value to being able to lie about your military record and plenty of harm to the military, Sergeant Giunta, and millions of other veterans in doing so.
The ancient system of military decorations and awards of rank are elemental to the motivation and good order of a military capable of protecting a nation.
It is the exact reason that the Conqueror Napoleon said: “If I had enough ribbon, I could conquer the world.”
Judge Smith concludes: “We are aware of no authority holding that the government may, through criminal law, prohibit speech SIMPLY because it is knowingly factually false.”
I wonder if the judge ever listened to the oaths that witnesses take subjecting themselves to prosecution for lying on the stand or read the bottom line on thousands of government forms that end by saying false statements may subject you to criminal prosecution.
One thing is for sure on this Veteran’s Day 2010, we cannot rely on the odd judges of the 9th Circuit to protect and honor our veterans, so we should do so ourselves, which is as it ought to be.