You stole my valor

As kids, one of the ominous questions and quite frankly most threatening questions our parents ever asked was, “Who did this?”

In our household one of two things happened: our parents could never really figure our who had done the deed and therefore we escaped punishment and banishment to the dungeon (aka our room); or mom and dad were able to ascertain the culprit through some very stealthy investigative work (perhaps even a little bribery of younger siblings and interrogation of older siblings) and the offender was remanded to custody in the dungeon to serve a day in solitary confinement without regular potty breaks, afternoon treats or a visit from their favorite friend. Yes, I have been watching too many reruns of Law & Order SVU. Whatever the case, even if you did it, there seems to be one universal response when you’re trying to get out of something you did  – deny, deny and deny again, right?

But what if someone didn’t do it and they tell everyone that they actually did? In this case it’s not really a crime. Technically, it was a law for a short time but the law was recently overturned by the Supreme Court because how are you going to imprison someone for being an idiot?

We live in a beautiful country. Yes, we have our issues and most of them are discussed ad nauseam by talking heads, political pundits and talk show hosts but it doesn’t not diminish the potency of democracy, the natural beauty of this land nor the power of it’s people. I am very grateful for and proud of my citizenship in this great country.

I’m also grateful for those who protect and have died in defense of our freedoms whether they are in the armed forces or serving in local law enforcement. So it tends to chaff me a bit when I read or hear about stories of people who regal us with their war stories or stun us with their stories of the atrocities that they have witnessed or lived through, only to find out that usually the only time that they served was behind bars for petty crimes.

In 2005 the Stolen Valor Act was put in place to prosecute and punish those who falsely claimed to have earned a Congressional War Medals. That didn’t stem the tide of ‘posers’ who lied about military service until the law was overturned last week by the Supreme Court. So now it’s okay to lie about your (imagined) military service because you won’t serve time and the only person that its going to hurt is you – oh and the hundreds of war veterans whose memory and service you trivialize with your lies and also your family whom I’m sure are very proud of your (fictional) tales of bravery.

Mark Twain said, “If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.” And Abraham Lincoln said of lying, “No man has a good enough memory to make a successful liar.” So why lie about something that is so easily proven or disproved? Why go to such elaborate schemes to prove something that you never did? In short, why lie at all?

My buddy Wayne reminded me yesterday of a fundamental truth – when you place a thief inside a prison cell his opportunities to steal become limited. When you place a liar behind bars his capacity to lie is not decreased. Whether these people thought there was some perceived gain or advantage in lying about military service or if uttering the lies made them bigger, braver, better men is unknown to everyone but the deceiver. What is known, however, is that their lies sullies and mars the luster of impassioned, decorated acts of valor and undermines the heroism of the wonderful people who put their lives on the line for the sake of freedom and democracy.

This Independence Day I celebrate the men and women of the armed forces and those who  work in law enforcement. Your service allows me the rights and privileges afforded me and everyone like me in this beautiful country. God bless the USA!

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