Stolen Valor is the act of claiming and/or wearing medals you are not entitled to. It's been all over in the last few years and some of the pretenders are nothing more than human garbage. I'm not going to name those people because I will not utter their names here, except perhaps with a curse and a hope for righteous justice to be done upon them. I will point you at two recent posts about the subject, one by Ed Rasimus and another by Navy1, the Mellow Jihadi. Both men are retired or active duty military officers and know whereof they speak. There are many good folks and websites dedicated to identifying and calling to heel those who make themselves ot to be the heroes they most definitely are not but I'll put up links to these; Stolen Valor, Report Stolen Valor, and the Sterner's website Home Of Heroes. They're all (and many more I haven't mentioned) doing great work that I support whole heartedly.
Here's why those who claim honors and accolades they're not entitled to really piss me off. In 2009, while I was still working as a cop, I met a young man in my city I called T (to preserve his privacy). He was a returned Iraq veteran who had suffered horrific injuries in combat and ended up completely blind. Lu made him a quilt and I wrote about it here. T never asked for pity nor sympathy nor handouts. He was going back to college and determined to get on with his life. We at the PD as well as the guys at the Fire Department took him to our hearts and did what we could and what he would accept as our way of honoring him, his service and his sacrifice for us. But he never complained nor exaggerated. He did what he did and was what he was and in my book he'll always be a hero. A man I both admire and love deeply.
What those who lie about their service do is steal from T and all those like him. Steal their honorable service and sacrifice just as surely as if they went into their houses and took it from them physically. It's a crime and I don't give a damn what the apologists and excusers think. It's outrageous and just another symptom of a diseased society that this is even being debated. There is no argument. Steal Valor, go to jail. It's an absolutely black and white issue to me. This isn't telling some girl or guy you're a Hollywood producer in the hope of scoring. These men and women have laid it all on the line and some have suffered horribly and been forever maimed as a result of their actual courage and service. Some have died. I am unworthy of them and proud as hell to call them brothers and sisters. I am honored by them and what they have done.
With that said, and in the spirit of complete disclosure, let me give my own service awards. I'll exclude those from my days as a police officer because that's not what I'm talking about here. This is about honorable military service. I was in the Utah National guard for 4 years and 8 months. I rose to Sgt. E-5. I went on active duty and spent 4 years in the Army where I once again rose to Sgt. (don't ask). The sum total of my military medals is;
The Good Conduct Medal
The Army Achievement Medal
That's it. I served honorably if not exactly with great distinction. I was a good soldier and I like to think a good NCO. I'm extremely proud of my service. I was a Cold Warrior and never served a single minute in combat but that does not detract from my service. Not a whit. I was a Fire Direction Specialist (13 Echo) in Field Artillery Batteries. I was good even competent at my job. Nothing else is required. I have self awarded myself the title of Six here because it's my blog and I'm the commander of my little slice of it and thence I can do watever I want. Nothing more. I thought about calling myself Supreme Dictator For Life And Overlord Of All I Survey but Six was shorter :) No Special Ops, no combat time, no jumping out of perfectly functioning aircraft. The closest I came was being assigned to a Light Infantry Division and that's a little like saying we were elite because they took away our 5 tons and made us walk everywhere. Yeah, not so much.
And that's what it all really comes down to. If you served honorably that's enough. You don't have to be Special Forces, Seals, Delts, Scout Sniper, Airborne, Fighter Pilot, Ninjaspecialopsciatrainedanddangerouskillerofeveryonewiththespecialpowerofthetouchofdeath to be proud of your service. Revel in the fact that you were one of the few, especially in these days. If you never served then serve now. Join or if that's not possible find another way to support those who have. Anyone who is a veteran is special and I don't mean that in the short bus sense. Be proud of yourself and tell everyone about your true service. Being a veteran already makes you a member of a very small group and entitles you to call brother and sister everyone else who has ever served honorably. That is a wonderful thing. I can call Sarge and Ed Rasimus, both two tour Vietnam combat veterans brother. I get chills. Reflected glory maybe but that's Ok, we're all veterans and we share a common heritage of service. That's all any veteran can ask.
Don't be a douche and for sure don't lie. There's no need. Being a veteran already sets you apart from the herd. You put yourself in a position where you might have been called to give your all no matter the actual terms of your service. The vast majority of Americans cannot say that and wouldn't understand it if you tattoed Service, Honor, Duty and Country on their foreheads. There's no need to prevaricate and it astounds me that some veterans will.
If you're a civilian then be proud of your Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, Sailors and Coast Guardsmen. Help them and support them and love them and you'll find their reflected glory to be a truly marvelous thing. Don't pretend to be one of them but honor them and their sacrifices because, no matter what branch or dates of service or anything else, if they served honorably then they sacrificed for your greater good.
My brothers and sisters, I deeply love each and every one of you. I am proud to call myself a veteran and to count myself among you, humble as my own service may have been. I am proud of my service as I am of yours. Thank you will never be quite enough. Keep the faith and never let anyone demean you, your service or your brothers and sisters in arms. Don't let the liars get away with it. They do nothing but bring shame and dishonor to us all.