Now, feel free to impersonate war heroes, judge rules.

Go ahead. Put it on, faker.

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…

November 25, 2006

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.


  1. Thats disgraceful… i agree with everything you’ve just said… i just cant believe someone would do that!

  2. as bad as that pisses me off it does not suprise me. on the same token ive heard stories from other marines,grunts, get shafted that like all the time. when these marines shoulda been gettin navy crosses for going through or doing crazy ass shit to save their fellow man POGS who never left the wire get nams with combat v for updating a web site in a combat zone in their air conditioned hooch eating kfc chicken. or cooks getting the same thing for cooking chow. some guys get the purple heart for cutting their leg on a humvee fuck them. if thats what it takes to make them feel better fuck them. and fuck that judge he can suck a big green cock. that just comes to show you the fuckin morons they make as judges and senators.

  3. If a U.S. citizen agrees to give six years of their life in service of thier country, leave their family and home behind and step into a hostile country facing possible death; they deserve to display every medal they earned in testimony of their loyalty and comadreship. I beleive it is a great injustice that you did not receive the purple heart you deserve, and hopefully, unlike James Garner, you will be awarded it soon and not wait 32 years. To just put on a medal you bought and call yourself a veteran, it is the same as spitting on the flag becuase the real veteran promises to protect the flag.

  4. I hope you get your Purple Heart one day, Mark! I really do!

  5. I’m only 13 and yet I realize that this is completely wrong. I’m actually more outraged at Blackburn than Strandlof. If this violates the First Ammendment then maybe congress should try to change it because this is unacceptable. If Blackburn believes that this is okay to do, to impersonate a person that actually WAS wounded, actually DID serve his country, and actually WAS attacked on 9/11, then maybe he should be removed from the court.

  6. Vietnam vet here; outrage at the judge for declaring “freedom of speech” in this issue is absurd, assinine, ludicrous and a disgrace to this country. Not onlt Strandlof have a tidy “big” blanket party, the Most Honorable Judge Blackburn should be the honorer guest, giving him the right to “second in line under the blanket”! What if Strandlof was outside the courthouse calling the judge a homo and a faggot, I KNOW the ruling would be different. Asshole! Can someone send me his email address?

  7. I came to your site while googling the body bomb soccer kid from The Hurt Locker and appreciated your take on the movie. As an attorney i have always been frustrated at the ridiculous way most trials are shown in movies and tv even when the movie, like the Locker, puts itself out as serious.
    Then i read this post and went to read the Judge’s entire opinion. The jerk did claim all sorts of honors and bragged about service he did not perform for his country but he was not charged with the wearing of medals but of claiming Valor through speech. The part of the original law that banned the wearing of medals is still the law as it wasn’t an issue; only the relatively new Stolen Valor law was found unconstitutional as it specifically seeks to ban speech. You can lie about yourself. I’m guessing exaggerations about military service are being heard by young woman regularly and i doubt anyone would want to police that. obviously this guy was way over that line but his speech is just as protected
    Neither defamation nor slander are crimes or illegal although a person could sue in civil court to stop or punish another person for doing them. If the slander damaged their reputation. So you could call the Judge anything in person but once you begin to tell others you get into an area where damages could occur
    Also impersonating a Judge could get you arrested but i imagine so could impersonating a member of the service as long as that act wasn’t just sitting in a bar bragging about being a Judge or a General but actually attempting to hold court or give orders or some other act in the official capacity of the person being impersonated.
    it’s a sad state of affairs when a real hero is denied his due so i wish you the best in your quest for justice

  8. This i completely wrong, he claims a mental illness. This Rick Strandlof is a dirty god damn maggot. He doesn’t deserve to even be in the presence of someone to actually served their country, and to lie about going to one of the most prestigious schools in the nation makes it all the worse. This man has hurt veterans causes everywhere and i hope he burns in hell eternally for it.

  9. Hi all. This is an outrage. Both Strandlof and Blackburn need a swift kick in the ass for something like this. Even up across the border this pisses me off. To Mark, I truly hope you do get your Purple Heart. Good luck, and I’m incredibly excited to read your book. Hopefully justice will prevail in the long run. Have a good day and stay safe out there.

  10. I can only guess that the continuous refusal to give you a purple heart is because it looks like a bruise, no blood drawn. Common problem with injuries like TBI. Anyway, I saw a lot of awards given that were not really earned. I did not get one because I was cross-level and did not belong with the unit. I made a lot of changes, advances and supported other units in theater and left Iraq bitter and disgusted about the phony people with which I was deployed. I worked hard as I have always done in any position, only to see that it was just the same clique of people patting each other on the backs reaping the rewards. All the awards that I put my soldiers in for were denied or down graded by that team of back patters. So truthfully, I don’t believe very many awards that I see.

  11. My brother got away from a $109.00 ticket from a police officer as the officer noted my brother wearing army jacket etc, and said “since you’re a vet, I’ll let you off with a warning” my bro posted that on facebook???? I left a retort saying…”impersonating a veteran, taking credit when it’s not due, shame on you.” I wish a real vet would rip him a new a-hole! He thinks it funny. E-mail me if you want his e-mail! He deserves a big knuckle sandwich! I thank all you boys and girls, from all countries, from the bottom of my heart, God bless you all!

  12. Devildog

    This is a brother from another mother (Seabee) that is fighting the same battle, to be recognized for my wounds while I was in theater. I was hit by an IED 27AUG08 in Al Asad air base, Ana Bar Province, Iraq. The mission I was to complete was to get a compound mission ready for the next incoming Seabee battalion. The compound was unoccupied for 5 months and unsecured. 250 yards away the Iraqi Army compound has about 20% Iraqi soldiers that where sympathetic to the insurgents. In the unoccupied and unsecured compound there where refuge in one of the building and a explosive devise in a old clock radio. I thought the radio was trash picked up the radio and put it in the pile of trash. I went off. I received shrapnel to both of my lower legs and had amputated my toes on my right leg. After I had been medi vaced out of the AOR to San Diego, the CNO of the Navy came to visit me in the hospital. I thought this is it I am going to get my purple heart, negative, here is your coin Petty Officer. Thanks.

    My battalion surgeon contacted me while I was in the hospital and told me he submitted the paper work for my purple heart. Finally it went up the chain of command and the CENTCOM denied my battalion surgeons request. I thought fucking great. The burden of proof lays on me that the enemy placed that IED there. Yea sure, we received orders to set our weapons at condition 1 and deadly force was authorized if any one came over the T walls. This was passed down from the CO of the base. Still negative on the award. I have contacted my senator my congressman, they can’t help. SNAFU, and FUBAR.

    Now I hear some knuckle head pipe smoker is let go on some freedom of speech technicallity on how he can wear medals which he NEVER earned. WTFO yep SNAFU.

    later bro Im just going to chill and not think about going on a rampage.

    BU1 USN (ret) “Construimus Batuimus”

  13. This is so disgracful to all military members and families i can’t believe they would try to do something as outrageous as that. My cousin was in the marines and went through the same thing with the Purple Heart as you did and he still hasn’t received one either. I hope you and all the rest of our Soldiers get the medals tehy deserved. I’m from a pretty military family so this just enrages all of my family especially since my cousin was one of the first soldiers over in the middle east. Best of Luck with your book as well. Can’t wait to read it.

  14. Obviously this guy is a disgrace. Honestly tho, you seem to be cut from the same cloth Perna. I was with 3rd Battalion 4th Marines, served on 4 combat deployments, 2 to Iraq and 2 to Afghanistan. There is something wrong with you. Your melodramatic, glory seeking, insecurities are overflowing from your articles. In the 2 articles I’ve read, both have said “only my friends and family know this” or something to that effect, then you go on to tell some war story. “I got shot by a sniper” “I was in the bushes and couldn’t pull the trigger either”. Why would you preface your story each time with “only very few people close to me know this” or however you phrase it, when you are about to blab it to the entire world? It’s like you are saying, “I really want you to see how cool I think I am and all the combat I’ve been through, but I don’t want to come off as glory seeking and insecure…. so I’m gunna say -not many people know this- before I tell EVERYONE” Are you serious? And you want a purple heart for a scratch? I had a guy in my unit get both his legs blown off in Afghan and another get his calf blown off, and others get killed over the years, guess what award they got? The purple heart. The same one you are crying about to your senators. Do you really think you deserve the same award they received? I’d be ashamed of myself if I were you. When was the last time you looked at that picture? “Grazed my carotid artery…” I graduated EMT course and know something about anatomy, your carotid is about 2-3 inches closer to your throat then where you were scratched by that round. You were not shot, you were scratched. And to say “I stayed with my men, it was my duty” is just rediculous. How melodramatic can you get? How can you even look at it like it was an option to do anything other than stay with your guys? Like a scratch like that would inhibit you from doing anything…I took shrapnel to my face, primarily the right eye and had 3 abrasions to my cornea, had to get evaced and treated at the aid-station. I didn’t request a purple heart and never got one. The same month, a friend of mine was shot in the face by a sniper, other guys in my company were fragged by grenades and hit by enemy mortars…they got purple hearts. Little scratches are just that, scratches, just like the ones I got on my eye and the one you got on your neck. Think about the guys who really deserve that award, stop crying about not getting one and please stop blabbering on about your war stories. And “Don’t ever call me a hero…” That’s so ridiculous, you need to change that too. You are trying to insinuate you ARE a HERO by saying that, but by saying not to call you one you are attempting to hide the fact that you think you are one….Who says that? More melodrama…By saying that, you are EXPECTING people will be calling you one…cuz you did some combat deployments? Got shot at? Put down a few bad guys? Stood some guard duty for the SEAL’s…please. The heros are the ones who didn’t come back, the ones who gave all, and the ones who actually did something heroic but don’t go blabbering around trying to get recognition. Don’t worry, I wont call you a hero.

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