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Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Friday, December 21, 2012

On Stolen Valor

The subject of today’s blog post is stolen valor, but with a special emphasis which I shall address shortly.

I was intrigued to learn today of both the existence and the striking down of the Stolen Valor Act, which was essentially a law banning U.S. citizens from pretending to be veterans, or falsifying their military records. I used to hear a lot about phony Soldiers, especially when I was still on active duty, probably because we knew exactly how ridiculous some of these folks looked. I gather that these people get away with posing as service members because most civilians won’t catch the fact that his medals are out of order or ridiculously inflated for his rank, or that his beret was skewed or that he was wearing a black undershirt.

(Seriously, I remember a picture of a guy wearing a black undershirt. That’s ludicrous in a way I don’t even really know what to compare it to. Like a fireman wearing a chef’s hat, or something.)

Anyway, I don’t mean to belabor this point, I guess I just wasn’t aware that they had a law banning this practice, although I had heard the term “stolen valor” quite a bit. See, sometimes these jerkoffs would really boil my blood because they would, say, make a really offensive statement and then claim they were entitled to be heard because of their fake Medal of Honor from ‘Nam. And then other times it was just Grampa claiming he was at the Bulge when he was really still in France. How pissed can you really get about that?

So earlier this year the Supreme Court struck down the Stolen Valor Act (again, I don’t think I was really aware of it in the first place) on what I would consider the “Grampa forgot which campaign he was in” clause. Basically, if you can prosecute someone for lying about his military record, why couldn’t you prosecute someone for lying to mom and smoking or drinking? (No, really, that was one of the justices’ examples.)

So, okay, I guess I’m on board, I can understand why attempting to ban any lying, even odious lying like claiming to be a vet when you’re not, impedes on the First Amendment. Which basically puts the onus on we, the people, and the Fourth Estate, to get their facts straight and to not let people get away with this shit, or anyway, to not report on it without checking first.

Which leads me in a roundabout way to the direct subject of today’s blog. I’m not sure what the correct method of addressing this subject is, so I’m going to pick a method, and if you disagree with it, please let me know in the comments. So here’s my method: first I want you to read this story, which we’ll call the Medal of Honor in ‘Nam Story from here on out. Now I want you to read this story, which we’ll call the Grampa Fibbing Story from here on out.

Okay, if you actually read them both, you’ll probably guess pretty quickly why I was leery about what order to put them in. Basically, they’re the same story, which boils down to: some weirdo thought he would prove a point by “guarding” an elementary school unarmed while in his Marine Corps uniform. The difference is the first story paints the guy as a piece of shit, while the second story paints the guy as kind of a misguided but well-meaning old fellow.

Why am I bringing all this up? Well, first of all, I’d like to hear your opinion of this practice, if you have one. I personally find it objectionable, and I suspect that the fellows doing it are doing it more to get media attention for themselves, personally, than to in any way “protect” children or put their minds at ease. And wearing your uniform to get attention pretty much runs contrary to most concepts of honor inculcated in the military. Even more offensive is that I suspect (but can’t prove, so I’m not overly excited about it) that these two jokers are actually using their uniforms to support a political cause, which is not just a grey area like being a publicity whore, it’s flat out fucking prohibited by the UCMJ.

(If you disagree with me, please let me know, I’m still trying to parse this out, so feel free to let me know in the comments what YOU DECIDE!!!™)

So, all that being said, back to the subject of stolen valor. The reason I was on the fence about whether to present the ‘Nam Story first or the Grampa Story first is that one really colors the other. Because, fundamentally, neither of these men did anything all that different. Neither was authorized to wear his uniform under these circumstances, but both did so anyway out of a sort of a misguided sense of morality. But whereas Grampa actually served in the marines for a while and just dug his uniform out of the attic, ‘Nam MOH guy apparently got booted out after basic.

So, my feeling is that if you agree with the premise of the ‘Nam Story, which is that a piece of shit stole some valor, it really colors your impression of the Grampa Story, making that guy also look like a piece of shit.

But if you agree with the premise of the Grampa Story, which is that this guy really had his heart in the right place but didn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground, it really colors your impression of the ‘Nam Story, making that guy look like a sort of sad sack with a heart of gold.

Well, I think I’ve said enough about how I feel. What do you think?

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