Here's an example of stolen valor:
A Philadelphia man apparently likes dressing up in uniforms.
Last week, he was wearing Army fatigues at the Oxford Valley Mall in Middletown when he was confronted by an Army veteran who suspected that the man never served in the military. The veteran of Afghanistan who lives in Northampton posted the video of the confrontation on YouTube and it has since generated more than 2.8 million views and incensed military families nationwide.
Back in 2003, his uniform of choice was a police coat.
The now 30-year-old Sean Yetman was arrested while wearing the coat of a Philadelphia officer who died in the line of duty. He pleaded guilty in Bucks County Court in May of that year to impersonating a public servant, a second-degree misdemeanor. He was sentenced to three months of probation for that crime along with a summary offense of driving with a suspended or revoked license, according to online court records.
Anyone who wears their uniform to the mall is automatically suspect, so I can understand why Mr. Berk (who films the video at the link) questioned Yetman. When I was in the Army, they flat-out told us not to wear the "work" uniform in public places, especially when shopping, and this was in San Antonio, Texas before 9/11.
Yetman stumbles through the questions, trying to pass himself off as "somebody." This is a sad young man who's never done anything and has nothing happening in his life. He has dressed up in a military uniform in order to gain some sort of self respect. He welcomes engagement in a lonely, pathetic manner, hoping he can pass himself off as a Veteran with combat awards on his chest.
There really is no way to separate the stealing of valor from free speech, however. Yetman has the free speech right to wear a uniform so long as he is not breaking the law, which, in this case, would be to show up somewhere and actually try to perform as a member of the military. He is not trying to enter a military facility. He's shopping and he wants to chat with people. There's quite a bit more to it than that, however.
Civilian and military authorities are looking into whether Yetman sought or received military discounts while at the mall on Black Friday or if he violated a state law that forbids the unauthorized wearing of military decorations.
Falsely claiming to be a member of the military is not illegal, but under the Stolen Valor Act of 2013, it’s against federal law for an individual to fraudulently portray him or herself as a recipient of any of several specified military decorations or medals with the intent to obtain money, property or other “tangible” benefit.
Surplus military uniforms, fatigues and other items, including badges, are available for sale in Army Navy stores, and online. But Nurnberg said that if a military service member wants to give away a uniform, he or she must remove the “U.S. Army” identification badge above the left pocket. That identification marker appears on the uniform Yetman is wearing in the YouTube video, he added.
Under Pennsylvania law it is a summary offense to wear a uniform, decoration insignia or other distinctive emblems of any branch of the armed forces of the United States for the purpose of obtaining aid, profit or while soliciting contributions or subscriptions. It is also a summary offense to, without authority, knowingly wear, exhibit, display or use for any purpose any military or veteran insignia.
Also, it is a third-degree misdemeanor in the state if a person, without authority, purchases, sells, offers for sale or accepts as a “pledge or pawn,” any medal, insignia or decoration granted for service in the armed forces.
On Wednesday, Bucks County’s chief of prosecutions, Matt Weintraub, said that in order to pursue the misdemeanor offense involving military decorations, authorities would need to prove that Yetman purchased the CIB badges in Pennsylvania and without authority.
I do think that his wearing of three Combat Infantryman Badges is especially troubling. Yetman would have had to be at least forty-five years old or more in order to qualify. He is also trying to pass himself off as being currently assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment. I don't know how many 300lb soldiers they have in that unit, so, you know. I doubt very much if Yetman would have even been questioned if he had been wearing no decorations or badges and the unit patch of the 28th Division. That's the hard truth about service in the military.
Yetman is attempting to perform his fraud by presenting himself as a mid-career NCO from a specialized Army unit on active duty. There are elite soldiers in every aspect of the Army and you can tell by how they carry themselves. There is a myth about Special Forces and other such units that says that everyone else in the Army is a widebody slapface who can't do anything right. That's inherently wrong.
Yetman stands out because he pretended to know the narrative of what a soldier would know and was caught red-handed in a phony story about himself right off the bat. In our midst is a failure or a young man who has no idea how to turn his life around and gain some self respect. The culture must be terrifying for such an individual, especially since we disregard people in uniform and treat soldiers so poorly.
News flash, asshole. This country treats Veterans poorly. No one blinks twice when neglected Veterans turn up all over the place. Why did he think pretending to be one would earn him anything beyond being mocked and humiliated in a chance encounter with someone who knew what a soldier is supposed to look like?