Saturday, May 26, 2012

Honoring Our Fallen Heroes with the Truth

Memorial Day is an important subject in our household. The family connections demand it. My grandpa served in WWI; my dad was in Germany during his Army days around the Korean War.
    The Brick's military ties are even stronger. His dad was career Navy (a medical corpsman stationed at Camp LeJeune, a Marine base). Several uncles also served during WWII. Both his brothers retired from the military: one from the Air Force (he captained a bomber-monitoring base in Montana), the other from the Navy (at the Naval Academy, captain of a nuclear submarine...then a desk in the Pentagon). The Brick himself spent six years in the Navy before I met him -- first in Great Falls, ID; then the submarine Batfish; and finally, the U.S.S. Dewey, an aircraft carrier.
    Although our daughters chose not to enter the military, we've had nieces and nephews serve.

We've had a front-row seat to the stresses and demands a military life puts on you...for families who stay behind, as well as those who face action, pain and the possibility of death. Every single day. For the sake of our country. For us.

I am so grateful for their resolve and commitment.
 I honor those who paid for that commitment with their wounds --and lives. THANK YOU.

It therefore makes my stomach turn when fakers emerge who claim that they served in combat. They have great, horrific stories. They apply for disability. They attend veterans' events with chests resplendent with medals.
    That they never earned.

The Supreme Court is currently working on one of these Stolen Valor cases -- a Californian, Xavier Alvarez, announced that he had been awarded the Medal of Honor. (He wasn't.) His lawyer is arguing that yes, he lied - but so what. It didn't hurt anybody! (Alvarez wasn't seen actually wearing the fake medal - a point in his favor.)
   Judge Sotomayor didn't seem to have a problem with this, either:

SOTOMAYOR: What I'm trying to get to is, what harm are we protecting here? I thought that the core of the First Amendment was to protect even against offensive speech. We have a legion of cases that said your emotional reaction to offensive speech is not enough. If that is the core of our First Amendment, what I hear, and that's what I think the court below said, is you can't really believe that a war veteran thinks less of the medal that he or she receives because someone's claiming fraudulently that they got one. They don't think less of the medal. We're reacting to the fact that we're offended by the thought that someone's claiming an honor they didn't receive. So outside of the emotional reaction, 3 where's the harm? And I'm not minimizing it. I too take offense when people make these kinds of claims, but I take offense when someone I'm dating makes a claim that's not true.

(Ok, maybe a little. But isn't  this called FRAUD in any other situation...especially if they use said claims to raise money, get disability benefits, special treatment, and such??)

JUSTICE ALITO: Do you really think that there is -- that the First Amendment -- that there is First Amendment value in a bald-faced lie about a purely factual statement that a person makes about himself, because that person would like to create a particular persona? Gee, I won the Medal of Honor. I was a Rhodes scholar, I won the Nobel Prize. There's a personal -­ the First Amendment protects that?
MR. LIBBY (Alvarez's lawyer): Yes, Your Honor, so long as it doesn't cause imminent harm to another person or imminent harm to a government function.

Imminent harm. That phrase is the defense's main foundation. But the application -- how can anything but the truth be approved? Chief Justice Roberts hit on the crux:

What is the First Amendment value of a lie...a pure lie? 

The Supreme Court hasn't released a decision yet...but it's bound to be interesting.
     And if you're thinking this is a test of the 2005 Stolen Valor act, you're absolutely right. It's already been invalidated several times as a "free speech" issue, including by a Denver judge. ( In other words, you have the right to lie about anything you want -- and not be held accountable for what you say or claim. Pathetic.)

This problem is more widespread than you think.  For more on Stolen Valor, try the amazing book by B.G. Burkett (extremely detailed, though a tad generalized), or visit the website. There are others, too, including the Military Times' Hall of Stolen Valor and the P.O.W. Network, that document people who lie about their service and medals.

   They shouldn't be allowed to get away with it.

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