By George S. Kulas
Hopefully the recent conviction of the Wisconsin man in federal court for wearing an unauthorized military medal of valor will send notice to other war hero impostors that they too can be prosecuted for their theft of valor.
Unfortunately, fake war heroes who attempt to depreciate the legitimate accomplishments of the true heroes who served and sacrificed for our country number into the thousands. It's an epidemic on a national scale.
The wearing of and/or lying about having earned medals of valor is sad enough but it doesn't stop there. There are liars going around claiming to have been Vietnam veterans, Desert Storm veterans, and now veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. There are even liars, some who can't even swim, claiming to have served as Navy SEALs. A group called AutheniSeal has discovered and fronted out over 10,000 of these impostors. Still other slimmy fakes have seeped out of the woodwork by claiming to have been POW's during the Vietnam War. The POW network has documented over 700 cases of these phonies who are listed at their website http://www.pownetwork.org .
With so many fakes running around how can we distinguish the true heroes from the impostors? The best way to identify an impostor is to check his/her military record. Military records speak for themselves as do the awards and decorations documented in those records. Unfortunately, records can be altered and or counterfeited as well. For a few bucks one can buy on e-Bay blank medal of valor certificates such as the Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart, Silver Star, etc. All a fake has to do to become an instant hero is to fill in his/her name and forge a signature.
Fortunately, the true records cannot be altered. The true records of veterans are filed at the National Personnel Records Center Military Personnel Records at 9700 Page Avenue St. Louis, MO 63132-5100. A form 180 (request pertaining to military records) and a written Freedom Of Information Act request is all that is required to obtain most of the military record of any veteran. Many fakes have been fronted out this way and many more are currently being checked on. Additionally, the Home of Heroes website at http://www.homeofheroes.com/ lists all the names of the true heroes who have earned our nation's highest awards for valor to include, the Medal of Honor, Navy Cross, Air Force Cross and the Distinguished Service Cross.
Not surprising is the fact that even after being fronted out some impostors have used the excuse that their roles were so highly classified that their records are classified as well and therefore not releasable. Geographical areas and/or missions may be classified but award and decoration certificates pertaining to actions under such circumstances simply leave any classified information out and are open records as well.
More and more of our young men and women are returning home as war veterans. They and the veterans who served before them have so bravely fought the good fight. Impostors, who claim to have walked in their boots and/or who claim to have gone above and beyond the call of duty, cannot be allowed to continue stealing the honor of those who have truly earned it.
George S. Kulas served as a Sergeant Major in the U.S. Army before he retired.