(76) Stolen Valor: Two states take aggressive stands

Molly, the service dog

Golly, Miss Molly

A blog about a service dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the family caregiver)

Molly’s Dog Medals

Molly clanks around the house with her dog tags, alerting us to her presence long before she enters the room. She does not seem to mind the weight of metal hangingMolly with William and the American flag from her collar. In fact, she wears them with pride—especially her service dog tag, which makes her special.

Just two nights ago, we entertained a good friend for dinner. Molly is trained to do her business and return through a cracked door. I forgot to shut the door after Molly returned when talking with our friend. Molly escaped for a late-night escapade. Fortunately, two neighbors stopped by with Molly in tow, asking if she is our dog. Her tags helped identify her and enabled her safe return.

While the medals dangling from her collar identify her as a trained service dog, they are no match in meaning to the medals worn by our Military and Veterans. Unfortunately, a long-standing insult to those serving or having served occurs frequently when imposters claim to be decorated heroes. These imposters dress in someone else’s uniform, wear stolen medals, and claim discounts and benefits intended for the Military and Veterans.

The Stolen Valor Law

In 2012, the Supreme Court struck down the Stolen Valor law as unconstitutional, claiming the accused imposter possessed free speech rights to his false claim of being an honored Veteran. In 2013, the Stolen Valor law was revised, which tied stolen valor “with the intent to obtain money, property, or other tangible benefit. . . .” The new law, however, did not restore the prohibition on manufacturing or selling unauthorized medals, which fell under the previous law.

States Ratchet Up Pressure on Stolen Valor

On Sunday, Fox News reported that the states of Massachusetts and New Jersey proposed their own versions of the Stolen Valor law to make it a criminal act. In the Massachusetts proposal, the crime would carry at least one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

People take that uniform and the American Flag very seriously. You don’t get to say you fought for it when you clearly haven’t.

John Velis, Massachusetts State Representative and author of the Stolen Valor legislation

New Jersey’s proposed law would classify stolen valor as a third-degree crime—the same category as arson, robbery, drug possession, and driving under the influence. If convicted of stolen valor, up to five years in prison is possible.

 Valor Back Home

As William and I drove through a small Rocky Mountain community a couple of weeks ago, we drove past a home displaying the American flag.

“Now that’s a patriot—a true American,” he said.

I tape plastic American flags around our balcony for special patriotic holidays but have never been able to get him to mount a flag holder on the side of the house. His comment confused me since we do not display the flag as these homeowners do.

“Does that mean we aren’t patriots because we don’t display our flag like this?”

Without hesitation, he responded. “I am a flag. I served and fought for my country. I don’t need a flag to be a patriot.”

Every person in Military service and Veteran honorably- or  generally-discharged under honorable conditions, indeed, is an American flag. You earned your medals, you served for the uniform, and indeed you are entitled to display them with pride.

Shout a Bark-Out

The Miss Molly team hopes that the states of Massachusetts and New Jersey prevail in their extraordinary effort to preserve the honor for those who earned it. We encourage other states to follow their lead. A bark-out goes to the Guardian of Valor for working on the New Jersey legislation and for raising this issue nationally.

Post your Comments: 

Have you observed an instance of stolen valor? Please comment below.

About the blogger 

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her grandchildren.