- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Score one for the Purple Heart. In deference to outraged veterans and some nimble legislation, Hollywood abandoned a publicity gimmick built around the premise that the medal created by George Washington in 1782 is a dandy way to pick up women and get free cocktails.

Until yesterday, that was what the producers of “Wedding Crashers” hoped the nation would think. The unsavory comedy from New Line Cinema showcases a pair of party boys intent on wooing bridesmaids by posing as heroes, with medals to match.

An official “Crasher’s Kit” at the film’s Web site featured a fake Purple Heart medal, ready to print, with the instructions, “All you need to do is press the button.”

Not anymore. New Line has yanked the click-on feature. “If any moviegoers take the advice of the ‘Wedding Crashers’ and try to use fake Purple Hearts to get girls, they may wind up picking up an FBI agent instead,” Rep. John Salazar said yesterday.

On Friday, the Colorado Democrat introduced the Stolen Valor Act before the House, expanding upon federal law that makes it a crime to falsely wear or lay claim to the Purple Heart or other military medal.

Veterans and law-enforcement officers were also up in arms against the Hollywood trivialization of the medal awarded to the wounded and the dead. In the past week, the Vietnam Veterans of America, the Military Order of the Purple Heart and other organizations condemned the mockery, warning that a “surge” of fakers could heed the movie’s message.

The combination was enough to scare off the filmmakers. New Line Cinema removed the printable Purple Heart from the “Wedding Crashers” Web site (www.weddingcrashersmovie.com), and issued a terse mea culpa: “We understand the sensitivity regarding the medals and did not intend to make light of their significance in any way,” studio spokesman Richard Socarides said.

Although the veterans appreciated the gesture, their annoyance remains piquant. “That award honors the service and sacrifice of those who put their lives on the line for our country and were wounded in action. It is unconscionable to me — and is an insult to everyone who has served the nation in the military — to trivialize the Purple Heart,” said Thomas H. Corey, a disabled Vietnam veteran and president of the District-based Vietnam Veterans of America.

Meanwhile, the kerfuffle has brought public attention to a despicable practice. “The comedy actually highlighted a serious problem,” Mr. Salazar said. “Hundreds of imposters claim military honors they did not receive. Many have used those phony credentials to commit serious crimes. Our goal is to restore honor to those who have truly earned it.”

“Wedding Crashers” has been the No. 2 movie at the box office in the past two weeks, raking in more than $84 million to date.

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