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article imageFalse claims of Stolen Valor hurt good Veterans Special

By Samantha A. Torrence     Nov 3, 2015 in Crime
Stolen Valor is a subject that ignites a fire in the heart of Veterans and military personnel, but what happens when suspicions of Stolen Valor turn out to be wrong?
When B.G. Burkett began helping with the Texas Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial he didn’t know he would embark on a journey that would lead to a crusade against people falsely claiming military service or awards they had never earned. His experience outing military posers lead him to write the book Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation was Robbed of its Heroes and its History with co-author Glenna Whitely. His book opened the eyes of people across America, most notably Senator John Salazar, who spearheaded the original Stolen Valor Act.
The Stolen Valor Act was a blessing to American veterans who did not like to see their service cheapened by liars. Those liars were caught and prosecuted one by one until Xavier Alvarez appealed his case all the way to the Supreme Court. The Justices struck down the law in a 6-3 decision stating that false claims were not enough and as B.G. Burkett said in an interview the justices ruled that “It was legal to lie in America.”
After the Supreme Court struck down the Stolen Valor Act the Warfighter Community was displeased. Many felt betrayed and wanted to make sure that even if these liars received no legal repercussions that they were publicly shamed. Despite the passage of the new Stolen Valor Act which made it a misdemeanor to profit off of false claims of valor that sense of being wronged persisted.
In the beginning, there were cooler heads leading the fight like B.G. Burkett on his website which is swamped with requests to help identify possible fakes. However, outing a potential Stolen Valor started getting ugly with people attempting to achieve YouTube popularity by coming up and harassing people in public while recording.
The outing trend reached its most violent on Saturday, October 24 when Marine Michael Delfin was approached in a bar by an unidentified member of the Air Force and accused of being a fake. Sgt. Delfin, who is separated from service, was asked for his ID, which looks different than an active duty ID card. The lack of knowledge displayed by his accuser led to a physical altercation which ended in Sgt. Delfin having a broken leg and a broken jaw. His wife has set up a GoFundMe account to help pay for his medical bills, and they are still waiting on the identity of the assailant.
Assaults on the character of true Veterans through false claims of Stolen Valor are not limited to physical altercations. People have been using social media and mob mentality as their weapons of choice to call out people they feel are falsely claiming service or embellishing their service. While public shame can be a useful tool, it also exposes the Warfighter Community to embarrassment if the mob turns out to be wrong.
Where does this leave active duty military members and veterans?
Burkett believes that at any given time there are as many people faking military service as there are those who have served. That currently amounts to a possible 24 million people falsely claiming military service to gain rewards or recognition. According to Burkett around 100,000 false claims have been identified in the VA system alone.
B.G. Burkett’s website has a great amount of information on how to request records if one suspects they are in contact with a potential Stolen Valor. His team is swamped with thousands of tips at any given time which is why he is glad there are other Stolen Valor teams who are taking on the mantle like Guardian of Valor, This Ain’t Hell, and Military Phonies.
Boone Cutler of the radio show Tipping Point with Boone Cutler weighed in on the topic today: “When Soldier Hard and I did the Stolen Valor music video; it was a fantasy to take vengeance on a poser and it’s an awesome video. Its movie magic though and as part of that ‘magic’ nobody went to jail and the bad guy lost. People need to make sure they properly identify posers committing Stolen Valor because going after a real Warfighter fraudulently is wrong and a punk-move.”
Soldier Hard, the founder of RedCon1 Music Group, also had a message for everyone who is thinking about calling out someone on Stolen Valor: It is important for Veterans and active duty Warfighters to be aware of all types of identifications Veterans are issued, especially for active duty Warriors. Identify everything you can before accusing someone of Stolen Valor, ie. the different types of uniforms, medals, ribbons, and insignias. Most of the time it will be easy but now-a-days Stolen Valor people are getting clever so we have to know for sure. Failure to become aware of what to ask for and know what you are given can potentially cause you to wrongfully accuse a Real Veteran of a horrible accusation. Bottom line, know what to look for, know what to ask for, and know what you are actually presented. There is no need to get violent and act unprofessional now that Stolen Valor is actually a crime, we have that fact on our side.
If you suspect someone of Stolen Valor and they are reaping the rewards of their lies it is important to watch how you approach the subject. Publicly outing them before you have the information can lead to lawsuits of libel or slander and in the case of the Air Force member, charges of assault.
To report Stolen Valor go to :
More about Stolen valor, Guardian of valor, BG Burkett, Boone Cutler, Anthony Anderson
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