LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Free speech or free rein to fabricate?

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What a horrible decision U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn handed down last week (“Fake Marine should pay for his sins,” Web, Water Cooler, Monday). Judge Blackburn upheld the American Civil Liberties Union-backed “freedom of speech” defense of a phony war veteran. I need not remind readers that the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 was written into law because of the damage phony veterans have done to the dignity and prestige of our bona fide veterans and war heroes.

About 3 million Americans served in the Vietnam War, but in the last census, 12 million Americans claimed on official forms to be Vietnam veterans. In his groundbreaking book “Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of Its Heroes and Its History,” B.G. Burkett cites many examples of fake veterans who have milked the prestige other veterans deserve. When applying for civil service, veterans receive points that acknowledge the time they served their country. Phony veterans cut in line ahead of real heroes.

The most heinous example Mr. Burkett cites is that of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He mentions a defense lawyer who got his client off the charge of murder claiming PTSD and service in Vietnam were the causes of his client’s criminal act. It was the first time a PTSD defense was used successfully. There was only one problem: No one had bothered to confirm the authenticity of the defendant’s claims. It turned out the murderer was not a veteran of any war, nor had he ever served in the U.S. armed forces.

Over the years, I have heard veterans tell various tales about wars in which they actually served. That is one matter, but people pretending to have served in the first place compromise the standing of veterans. It is shameful and ought to be illegal. Is the ACLU advancing “free speech,” or is it trying to allow disgraceful abuse that permits false characterizations of our warriors?


Fredericksburg, Va.

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