A recent Jefferson Post story highlighted a local business owner who was falsely representing himself as a veteran. Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, our military has been continuously engaged in a Global War on Terror.
Fortunately, the American people have provided an overwhelming level of support to our troops and veterans. Unfortunately, many posers have surfaced in the form of military or veteran imposters, embellishers, liars and fake warriors who make false claims for the purpose of self-aggrandizement or worse, to profit from their lies. The phrase “stolen valor” has come to characterize the actions of these individuals.
The expression originates from a 1998 book written by B.G. Burkett and Glenna Whitley called, “Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation was Robbed of its Heroes and its History.” Amazon.com markets the book by saying, “The authors expose phony heroes who have become the object of award winning documentaries on national television, liars and fabricators who have become best-selling authors, and others who have based their careers on non-existent Vietnam service.”
The problem had become so wide-spread that Congress passed the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 which made it a crime to claim unearned military honors, regardless of the benefits obtained by those claims. President Bush signed it into law in 2006.
In a 6-3 decision in 2012, the Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional with the majority of Justices citing First Amendment protections, thus allowing the false claims to stand.
Soon thereafter, President Obama signed the Stolen Valor Act of 2013 into law. This amended version makes it a federal crime for a person to fraudulently claim they’ve received any of a series of particular military decorations and awards with the intention of obtaining money, property, or other tangible benefit by convincing someone that he or she rightfully received that award. Those convicted are subject to a fine, imprisonment of up to one year, or both.
Since the Supreme Court’s ruling, twenty two states have weighed in with their own stolen valor laws. Some of the state laws are even more wide-ranging than the federal law and specifically make it illegal for these fraudsters to falsely claim veteran status.
Regrettably, North Carolina has no such law protecting the valor of real veterans and currently serving warriors. Instead of wasting time and taxpayer dollars defending laws like HB2 which is sure to be ruled unconstitutional just as the Voter ID law was, the General Assembly should be focusing on matters with real consequences such as stopping valor thieves.
I urge you to contact your state representatives and ask them to take action.