'Stolen Valor' protected by Freedom of speech

Local veterans are outraged after one of their own was found to be protected by free speech when he wore medals he didn't earn

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Stolen Valor refers to when a person claims military honors they didn't earn.

The phrase became widespread after an Idaho man was charged with wearing a Purple Heart he didn't earn.

On Tuesday, a U.S. Appeals Court ruled that man is covered under by his First Amendment Right to Freedom of Speech.

Some local veterans are outraged.

"It's an absolute slap in the face to every veteran, not just Purple Heart recipients," said Mark Diggs, Commander of the Little Rock Chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, and a two-time Purple Heart Recipient.

"I was part of the Siege of Pace, which was the last major military encounter with the North Vietnamese and American forces."

He and other vets are outraged after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California ruled that Idaho resident, Elven Joe Swisher, was protected by free speech after he wore a Purple Heart that he didn't earn.

"It puts a taint on anybody that's earned it that wears it because people are going to say 'well did they really earn it, or did they not?"

In 2007, Swisher was convicted of violating the Stolen Valor Act, after he wore the Purple Heart to testify in a criminal court case.

"The sad thing about the case in California is, it was a U.S. Marine, an actual Veteran that started wearing medals he did not earn," said Diggs.

He and other vets consider Stolen Valor to be fraud.

"Would a judge allow me to wear a police man's uniform? Would a judge allow me to wear a robe in his courthouse," asked Colonel Retired, Mike Ross.

The Stolen Valor Act was signed by President Bush in 2006, was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2012, and was re-signed by President Obama in 2013 before being ruled unconstitutional Monday.

Ross says he's tired of the back and forth.

"Let's go visit the guys that wear the Purple Heart. I'm talking about men and women without arms, without eyesight, without legs, that are broken both outside and inside. There comes a point where we have to draw the line and say ' what are our values?'"

Mark Diggs says the Military Order of The Purple Heart and other veterans organizations will work together to push Monday's ruling back up to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

 


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