In an America in which few have served, it seems increasingly that there is much to be gained by claiming not only to have served but to have done so with courage and distinction. It is so much easier to attest to your courage and heroism before a fawning crowd if you didn't have to get muddy, sweating and bloody along the way.
It doesn't take very much to uncover these frauds. A few questions by someone who's been there will easily reveal the lies. The catch is that most Americans don't know what to ask. They don't know that the uniform really looks like. They don't know that a USAF member would seldom wear dolphins or that a Naval officer might not readily acquire a CIB. The man on the street or the "journalist" for the media sees little but a lot of colored little ribbons and some sets of stripes on a sleeve or shoulder. They know nothing about service-specific awards or priorities. They don't know about little stars versus oak leaf clusters, silver versus bronze significance, which decorations might justify a "V" device or even the precedence for the line-up of awards.
Yesterday the Supreme Court of the United States declared "no-harm, no foul" when those who have not earned these forms of recognition claim that they have done so. The Court said that stating you have been awarded a Medal of Honor or earned a Purple Heart when you haven't is protected free speech. Even though untruthful, it harms no one. They simply don't get it.
When a pretender claims he or she has been recognized for their courage or achievements and they have not, it lessens the value to which those of us who did earn the accolades are entitled. When a liar is discovered, we are all placed in doubt. When the awards are cheapened by faulty claims, the respect which should be connected with the possession of such awards will be denied.
Is it hard to make a claim? Of course not. Tell the next person who asks where you've been and what you've done the wildest tales you can dream up. Odds are you won't be doubted and the audience will sit in rapt attention hanging on your every word.
Want to spice it up? Get thee to Ebay and go searching for some memorabilia. Root out the collectors and get some patches, some ribbons, some actual medals in original presentation boxes. Flash your collection around. Deck out your uniform and show up at the Veteran's Day parade or the local American Legion bar.
Is it easy to build a background that a superficial check might accept? It's way too easy. Here's an example:
Give Yourself A Silver Star
Just go to the form, fill it out and you'll be on the list of recipients. You've "certified" that you possess the elements of the award; the citation, orders and medal. Create a thrilling bio for yourself and in a matter of an hour or so you're a red-blooded American hero.
Be cautious, however, where you make your claims. There are some real folks around who don't take too kindly to such shenanigans. The Supreme Court might say it is your right, but we're a little more restrictive on who gets in our club.