The Supreme Court has just held that Congress cannot prohibit people from falsely claiming they received military medals or making false claims about their military service. Lying, it seems, is part of free speech.
The most basic concept of a Constitutional limit on free speech taught to new law students is that one can’t falsely yell “fire” in a crowded theater. I assume the Justices felt there is no harm in falsely claiming military honors. They clearly haven’t read the book “Stolen Honor” which among other things lists elected politicians whose campaign literature claimed false honors: that is fraud on the electorate.
When I returned from Viet Nam, many veterans hid their status because employers were told there was such a high degree of drug use and violence among veterans. These statistics came from “surveys” of men in prison. Men in prison are by definition untrustworthy, but the people doing the studies took them at their word that they were veterans.
There was clear harm in these lies and in similar lies told time and again to news reporters across the country who accepted them as truth. The true story was the United States Department of Labor in the early 1970s found that veterans were better adjusted and had more stable families and careers than non-veterans.
But after encountering a number of frauds – Why do they always have to claim to be “Rangers” or “SEALs”? – I joined the Combat Infantrymen’s Association because to do so you must show the orders awarding you the CIB. It is the only award or metal I am really glad to have because it shows I did not let someone else go in my place.
On our recent trip, I was fortunate to spend a little time with Tim and David, two distant relatives – I can never tell the difference between “first cousins once removed” and “second cousins.” These young men are pilots in the Air Force.
I admire them so much – and all who serve today: they are volunteers.
Most of the Greatest Generation who served in World War II were drafted (to be fair, many early volunteers were told to wait for the draft). I enlisted for OCS, but only after I had received my draft notice.
Viet Nam was tough, but how much tougher it must be to go back to Iraq or Afghanistan time and time again, tour after tour. They didn’t have to: they are volunteers.
Even a simple lie that one served, let alone got a medal, dishonors their tremendous sacrifice.