U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn has ruled the Stolen Valor Law unconstitutional. Wait, what? In an unprecedented display of “Freedom of Speech”, the Judge dismissed Rick Strandlof’s charges under the stolen valor law on July 17th. This is insulting.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the case, Mr. Strandlof was a US Marine. Annapolis graduate. Survivor of the September 11th attack on the Pentagon. Three tours in Iraq. Purple Heart. Silver Star. Or so he claimed…Standlof has led an interesting life (more here), but in 2007 he emerged as an outspoken leader in the community of Colorado Springs for homeless vets, backed a number of Democratic candidates for state senate and house seats, and was staunchly against the war — meeting with Iraq Veterans Against the War. But he never saw how terrible war is firsthand. He even campaigned with Hal Bidlack, a retired Air Force officer who ran for Congress. Mr. Bidlack was actually in the Pentagon on September 11. What nerve.
Fast forward to 2010.
The Stolen valor Act makes t a crime to impersonate a “war hero” or claim to have a service medal that one does not, punishable by up to a year in prison on each offense. Judge Blackburn claims that this is now unconstitutional. Specifically, under First Amendment rights.
Wait a second.
Slander is illegal. Defamation is illegal. The very definition of defamation is making false statements about someone else in the public domain, such as print or other publications. So… how is it not illegal to make false claims about oneself, especially something so highly regarded as war medals?
I’m biased. I admit that. On November 25th, 2006, I was shot by a sniper. The bullet grazed my neck, scared the living shit out of me, haunts me in my sleep. Here’s a picture from later that day. It wasn’t serious enough to warrant medical attention but let me tell you how mortal I felt that day…
Due to an inconsistency with my PCR — Personnel Casualty Report — and the wording of the order that awards Purple Hearts to service members, I was denied a Purple Heart. Yep, that’s right. I was shot in Iraq and never received a Purple Heart. Whatever the wording is, there’s the picture, judge for yourself.
It is a crime for me to put on a Purple Heart. That’s right. Because I am still in the Marine Corps, technically, in the Individual Ready Reserve, it’s a crime for me to wear a Purple Heart without having been awarded one. Yet, here’s a Judge stating that it’s unconstitutional to do the same to a civilian?
What if Strandlof was claiming he was a U.S. District Judge? What if Strandlof claimed he was an Apple employee, strutting around in front of an Apple Store helping customers? What if he was impersonating a police officer? Are these instances of free speech as well?
Judge Blackburn, and Mr. Strandlof, I hereby present to you an honorable one finger salute. You know the one. It’s insulting to me, to every Marine, to every service member what you’ve done here. To state that it’s “freedom of speech” to falsely wear a medal that we’ve all buried friends in… words are ineffective at expressing my outrage.
That is all.