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LETTER: God bless the USA

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To the editor:

According to our erratic U.S. Supreme Court, I can now legally claim to be a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. While I am at it, why not also claim being awarded the Silver Star as well as a couple of Bronze Stars? In fact (not really), let’s also claim that I received the Purple Heart on four occasions.

Of course, the above are all lies, but the Court, in a split decision, ruled on June 28, 2012, that it is permissible for an individual to lie about his military service. He can also lie about awards/decorations received as long as the lies are not told “for material gain.” 

As soon as I figure out what that means, I’ll let you know. Anyone so inclined can now with impunity create for him/herself the most outrageous military “career” imaginable. This holds for someone who never even wore one of this country’s uniforms. It can be a fabricated career that includes combat actions that are of heroic proportions. 

Being the person of integrity you know me to be, I will restrict any comments on my personal history to the truth: I am proud to have served my country in the Vietnam War where I was the recipient of the Purple Heart and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge (CIB).

The Supreme Court’s actions June 28 struck down the law that was passed by Congress in 2005 to ensure the honor of a serviceperson’s accomplishments. A violation of the Stolen Valor Act was a federal misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison and a $150,000 fine. The matter came before the Court as a result of an individual in California (how appropriate!) who shamelessly claimed to have been a Marine and had received the Medal of Honor. 

Xavier Alvarez had told people he was a helicopter pilot and went behind enemy lines to rescue prisoners in Vietnam. He would have been about 17 years old when the Vietnam War ended. He later admitted he was never in the military. 

The liar’s defense was that he was protected by his right to free speech, and the Court upheld the lower Court of Appeals that had agreed with him. That is just disgusting, but the decision will stand until Congress can develop and pass new legislation to replace the now defunct Stolen Valor Act. 

This ruling is a distasteful affront to every person who has served or is serving our country with honor, and it casts a shadow on all those who are legitimate recipients of combat awards and decorations. “Stolen Valor” is an appropriate name, for now that valor has been stolen twice – first by the individual with his lies and now by the Court with its decision.

There were only three million persons in uniform who served in Vietnam. There were thousands who sought shelter in Canada or who found sanctuary in medical schools and seminaries. 

Today it has become fashionable to claim that one served in Vietnam, and an estimated nine to 13 million people are currently doing just that – another appalling piece of history.

When someone claims to have served in the military and/or claims to have received various awards and decorations, politely ask to see that person’s DD Form 214 (or equivalent). 

The DD 214 is the official government document that lists a veteran’s assignments and awards; it also shows the type of discharge the person received. 

Even those forms can now be falsified or created, but at least it is a start toward the truth. 

I usually carry mine with me along with the two-page medical report from Great Lakes Naval Hospital in which all of my wounds are listed. 

No ruling by any court will ever diminish the pride I feel for having served our country. The Purple Heart and CIB only add to that pride.

Albert Harrison (2LT)

Co. C – 3rd/47 BN

9th Infantry Division

Vietnam (12/1967-01/1968)