Stolen Valor Update

Posted: August 20, 2012 in Uncategorized
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Questions still linger over claims made by an Arkansas 3rd district congressional candidate who said he served as a Green Beret even though official records did not substantiate his entire story. Kenneth Aden, a former Army staff sergeant who is running in Arkansas’ 3rd District as a Democrat against incumbent Rep. Steve Womack, has said in interviews that he served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Green Beret. Aden’s campaign has circulated several documents to support his claim, including June 2008 orders awarding him a Special Forces military occupation specialty, or MOS. But according to a spokeswoman for the Special Warfare Training Center at Fort Bragg, N.C., that order tells only half the story. The other half would be the subsequent order rescinding that MOS, said Jennifer Martin. “When the students were entering the 18 Bravo training they would issue the orders [for the 18B MOS], and if they didn’t pass the training they would issue new orders to revoke” the first, Martin said. She said the Training Center has directed a copy of the revocation order be located and pulled from the storage files.

Aden did not respond to Military.com’s request for an interview but acknowledged in a statement released 28 JUN by his campaign that it had “misspoke about serving with a Green Beret unit.” But the candidate also insisted he earned the Special Forces designation. Aden’s campaign released a statement in response to an article published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on 28 JUN questioning his SF background. Campaign spokesman Vince Leibowitz defended Aden’s claims in phone calls and emails to Military.com over several days. Leibowitz said Fort Bragg officials are mistaken, that Aden successfully completed the Special Forces Qualification Course — known as “the Q-Course” — and became a Green Beret. “The orders were not temporary, and the 18B MOS was listed on his DD-214,” Leibowitz said, referring to the military document that represents a snapshot of a servicemember’s career. He said Aden maintained the MOS throughout his service and that it was noted on multiple documents. The documents Leibowitz provided included the second page of an evaluation report and a recommendation for an Army Commendation Medal.
Because Aden was injured very soon after completing the course — losing parts of two fingers on one hand when a door slammed on it — he was never assigned to a Special Forces unit, said Leibowitz. Instead, Aden was reassigned to the 82nd Airborne Division. The DD-214 released by the campaign lists Iraq as a duty assignment and also notes an 18B Special Forces weapons sergeant MOS underneath his 11C specialty code. There are no references to Afghanistan, where he said he also served. The military education block makes no reference to SF training and there is no listing of an SF Tab authorization in the box for decorations, medals and badges. When asked by Military.com to provide a copy of the diploma given to each graduate of the Q-Course Leibowitz said Aden could not find it and would have to order a copy from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, which houses veterans’ service records.
Word that Aden was embellishing his service record first broke on the blog ThisAintHell, according to retired Special Forces Master Sgt. Jeff Hinton, who regularly “outs” phony veterans on his own website, http://www.professionalsoldiers.com/. Hinton said he began contacting his own sources in the Special Forces community and quickly learned that Aden wasn’t being honest about his Green Beret background. “Ken Aden is just another example of a fraud using the Green Beret reputation for political gain,” Hinton said. “Aden, like many others, has been exposed by the real Green Berets. We are not fooled or amused and as Aden now knows, we are watching.” [Source: Military.com| Bryant Jordan article 29 Jun 2012 ++]

 

 

 

The former director of counseling at a nonprofit for veterans in Houston was charged by the Houston Division of the United States District Court with altering his military discharge papers after the Houston Chronicle reported that he had been lying about his Army record and falsely claiming a Silver Star and other medals. A federal grand jury indicted Paul A. Schroeder, 40, of The Woodlands, on 28 JUN for unlawfully possessing and exhibiting a certificate of discharge from the military, “knowing the same to be forged, counterfeited, or falsely altered.” The misdemeanor charge carries a penalty of up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.  In his job at the nonprofit PTSD Foundation of America, Schroeder mentored veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and led group therapy sessions at local churches and the Star of Hope Mission. He also lectured at least half a dozen times at the Houston Police Academy as part of a post-traumatic stress awareness program for officers and cadets. The Army veteran portrayed himself as a highly decorated Special Forces sergeant first class who suffered from PTSD after serving in combat in Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa and Central and South America. In fact, Schroeder had served 10 years as a military policeman stationed in New York, Panama and Texas. He left the Army as a sergeant in February 2001, before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan even started. Schroeder resigned from PTSD Foundation in February after confessing to a Chronicle reporter that he had lied about his record. In an interview with the Chronicle at the time, he said he didn’t know why he misled people about his service record and medals. “You can call it a desperate act of a desperate man,” he said. “… I’m trying to do the honorable thing now.” [Source: Houston chronicle article 28 Jun 2012 ++]

 

 

 

The high court ruled 6-3 on 28 JUN to toss out the conviction of Xavier Alvarez, a former California politician who lied about being a decorated military veteran. He had been charged under the 2006 Stolen Valor Act, which made it a crime to lie about receiving the Medal of Honor and other prestigious military recognitions. The decision invalidated the law, as the justices ruled Alvarez’s fabricated story was constitutionally protected speech. The law was inspired by the 1998 book “Stolen Valor” by B.G. “Jug” Burkett, a Vietnam veteran. The government had argued the law was a needed tool to protect the integrity of military medals. The ruling was issued the same day as the high court’s landmark decision upholding President Obama’s signature health care overhaul. While much of the nation watched with rapt focus on what would become of the law that requires every American to have health insurance, many people in military communities were more focused on the ruling on the Stolen Valor Act. Following are some reactions to the ruling:
 Jack Jacobs can proudly — and truthfully — say he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his valor in Vietnam. After a recent Supreme Court ruling, anyone else is free under the First Amendment to make the same claim, whether it’s true or not. Some military veterans say they consider the ruling a slap in the face. For Jacobs, though, it was the right decision. He said he wore the uniform to protect people’s rights — even if he doesn’t agree with how they exercise those rights. “There are lots of things people do that revolt me, but I’m happy that I fought for this country not to give them the right to do something stupid, but for the majority of the people to do the right thing,” said Jacobs, 66, who earned the Medal of Honor in 1969 for carrying several of his buddies to safety from a shelled rice field despite the shrapnel wounds in his head, the streaming blood clouding his vision. “I’m a free speech guy,” he said.
 For 87-year-old Murel Winans, lies about service can cause real harm and lead people to doubt the veracity of claims made by people who actually served during wartime. He said he didn’t buy the free speech argument. “You feel like you never earned it, because when you tell someone what you’ve done, they’ll say, ‘you’re lying just like those other guys,’” said Winans, 87, who described himself as a “fresh young hillbilly from West Virginia” when he landed on Normandy’s Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944 — his 19th birthday.
 Emotions ran high in Fayetteville, home to the 251-square-mile Fort Bragg. About 38 percent of North Carolina’s population is either currently in the service, a veteran or a dependent of one, according to the N.C. Department of Administration. The state is also home to the sprawling Camp Lejeune, known for its training in amphibious assaults like the one at Normandy. “My boys are out there giving their heart and soul,” said Rose Moore, whose son is stationed in Afghanistan. “To have someone say they did it and they didn’t do anything — it’s a lie, it’s dishonest.”
 Army Capt. Albert Bryant acknowledged that he was disappointed, saying the lies can detract from people who earn something like the Medal of Honor. However, his disappointment was somewhat tempered. “I know it’s the First Amendment, but maybe you need to have an amendment to the amendment to protect our enlisted men and women,” Bryant said. “Very few things in life are black and white so you have to take certain things in context, but there has to be some kind of common sense applied.”
 The decision doesn’t give anyone carte blanche to lie about their service record in an effort to get free perks, however. Anyone who fabricates any honors can still face fraud charges, which is what happened to former Marine Sgt. David Budwah in 2009. He was demoted to private and dishonorably discharged after pretending to be a wounded war hero to get free seats at rock concerts and sports events.
 Twenty-year Army veteran Raymond Hunt said the justices made the right move in protecting free speech. He said it’s enough that Alvarez has been publicly shamed. “For the rest of his life he has to walk around with that look on his face and know that he was the biggest liar in the country on something that is so sensitive to our country,” Hunt said.
 Retired Army Lt. Hal Fritz said the court treated those medals as something abstract. But for him, it’s a memory. Fritz was leading a seven-vehicle armored column down a Vietnam highway in 1969 when enemy combatants launched a surprise attack from all sides. Fritz was seriously wounded in the crossfire, but ran through the machine gun blasts to rally his troops. After his platoon survived the first wave, Fritz charged into a second enemy advancement armed with only a pistol and a bayonet. He was seriously wounded, but refused medical attention until all of his men had been cared for. He was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1971. “We would disagree with the majority saying lying about receiving the medals doesn’t devalue them,” said Fritz, 68, who now lives in Illinois. “I would say go back with me to Vietnam dragging the dead and dying off the battlefield.”
 The Medal of Honor is among the rarest of honors: Only 81 of the 3,457 recipients since the Civil War are still living. Of those, only three are younger than 35, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. Of those interviewed, the Medal of Honor recipients agreed that Congress should try again to pass a similar law that would survive judicial scrutiny. That didn’t ease the anger of people like Vietnam veteran Richard A. Pittman, who was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1968. He had left his platoon to help Marines under fire, exhausting several machine guns before hurling his final weapon at the enemy: a grenade. His actions halted the Vietnamese advancement and bought time that saved many of his wounded companions. “I’m supportive of the Constitution, but in this case I just think they’re wrong,” said Pittman, 68, who now lives in California. “I wonder what the Supreme Court would think if part of my resume said I was a member of the Supreme Court or I answered my phone ‘Justice Pittman.’“
[Source: The Associated Press Allen Reed article 1 Jul 2012 ++]

 

 

 

Lawmakers upset over the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Stolen Valor Act last month are today pushing for a new version of the legislation, making it illegal for individuals to benefit from lying about their military service or receiving valor awards. The previous Stolen Valor Act, passed in 2005, made any lie about military service or awards a federal misdemeanor. But the Supreme Court justices ruled the law was too broad, infringing on individuals’ free speech rights. However, in their decision the justices noted that a more narrow measure – one that only punished those who profit from the fraud – could withstand a constitutional challenge. Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV) and Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) already introduced such legislation in anticipation of the Supreme Court decision, and have begun lobbying fellow lawmakers to adopt it before the end of the year. Veterans groups disappointed over the decision have said they believe the new law is an easy fix and an easy sell, even with the bitter partisan divides in the current Congress. Under the new bills, most frauds could face fines and up to six months in prison for profiting from lies about their military service. However, individuals who falsely claim to have served in the special forces, served in a combat zone or received the Medal of Honor would face up to a year in prison. [Source: Stars & Stripes Leo Shane article 10 Jul 2012 ++]

 

 

 

On 11 JUL, in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in the United States v. Alvarez case that struck down the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 on Freedom of Speech grounds, Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) introduced S.3372 “The Military Service Integrity Act of 2012.” If passed this new law would create criminal penalties for falsely claiming to have served in the military or to have been awarded a military medal, decoration “in order to secure a tangible benefit or a personal gain.” According to the Senator’s office, “The legislation encompasses such tangible benefits or personal gains as communications in pursuit of government benefits related to military service; a resume or other communication in the pursuit of employment or professional advancement; communications for which financial remuneration is involved; and those designed to affect the outcome of criminal or civil court proceedings or to impact one's personal credibility in a political campaign.” The bill also includes sanctions dating back to 1947 making it a crime to “manufacture, sell, attempt to sell, import, or export U.S. military decorations or medals authorized by Congress for the armed forces except when authorized under regulations made pursuant to law.”
Senator Webb said that the bill has been drawn up to follow the Supreme Court’s decision. He stated: “Profiting from the misrepresentation of military service or the award of a decoration or medal for personal gain undermines the value of service and is offensive to all who have stepped forward to serve our country in uniform. The Supreme Court has outlined a very clear way forward to bring accountability to such reprehensible actions. The legislation I am introducing will do so within the scope of the protections offered to all Americans under the First Amendment.” There are also 2 other bills pending in the House and Senate that are intended to deal with this problem. In the fall of 2011 Senator Scott P. Brown (R-MA) and Representative Joseph J. Heck (R-NV) were obviously concerned that the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 was going to be struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court (It had, after all, already been held unconstitutional by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.) They introduced companion bills titled “Stolen Valor Act of 2011.” The Senate bill, S.1728, has 29 co-sponsors and the House bill, H.R.1775, has 79 co-sponsors. They are simpler bills that do not include provisions concerning the manufacturing of unauthorized medals and decorations. These bills are hopefully an indication that a bill can be crafted that will not be successfully challenged and these awards of valor will be protected. [Source: TREA News for the Enlisted 13 Jul 2012 ++]

 

 

A Navy Reserve recruiter and wannabe country music star has been charged with wearing the Distinguished Flying Cross and another award he didn’t earn, and lying about them to investigators. Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class (NAC) Grady Wayne Nations, 43, was charged 8 JUN with violating Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for wearing a DFC and a Coast Guard Special Operations Service Ribbon. He wore the DFC between Jan 1, 2010, and Sept. 23, 2011, and the Coast Guard ribbon from Jan 19, 2008, to Sept. 27, 2011, the charges state. He also is accused of lying under Article 107 for presenting the allegedly forged DFC certificate to his command “on or about Sept. 20, 2010,” for inclusion in his record. He’s also is accused of lying to investigators by saying he believed the certificate was valid and he was authorized to wear the award when he knew otherwise. His trial is tentatively set for Aug. 13, and sources told Navy Times he could face up to 12 years confinement if convicted on all charges.

Not only did Nations allegedly submit the forged DFC certificate to his superiors, they apparently approved it and sent it on to Navy Personnel Command, where it was included in his permanent service record. NPC officials said quality control of documents lies with the submitting commands, though they do investigate when the authenticity of records is in question. It’s not uncommon for such documents to include awards and qualifications that are not documented elsewhere, officials say. They stressed that it is up to the submitting commands to verify the information on those documents prior to sending them to NPC. Because Nations’ end-of-service document was updated in his permanent record at the same time the allegedly forged DFC certificate was put there, a number of other awards listed on that document that don’t have other substantiating entries were called into question. For a year after the update, Nations freely wore the DFC ribbon and occasionally the medal until some peers at NOSC Nashville contacted Navy Times to find out whether the award was real. They knew the certificate was in his record, but no one had actually seen it — Nations, they said, held it close. At the time of the alleged DFC award, Nations was a third class petty officer at Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 40 in Norfolk, Va. The certificate cites action that took place Nov. 11, 1991, and says the award was approved Dec. 30, 1991. There is no mention in Nations’ service record that indicates he deployed to the Persian Gulf in 1991, or ever, during his nearly four years at VRC-40, according to NPC. [Source: NavyTimes Mark D. Faram article 27 Jun 2012 ++]

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