JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The United States Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling that allows anyone to claim they have earned combat medals, regardless if it’s true or not.
Sifting through family history is a point of pride for Aaron Bennett. Serving under the stars and stripes runs deep in his family. The men in his family fought in every war since the American Revolution. Some died in battle and all fought for freedom.
“They've signed a blank check to the United States of America up to and including their lives,” said Bennett.
Sadly, there are people who don't make that sacrifice and still gain the glory. The list includes Charles White, of St. Augustine. The former Marine claimed he earned four Purple Hearts but was later prosecuted in federal court under the Stolen Valor Act.
“It's a slap in the face to me, my wife, my father and anybody else who has served,” said Bennett.
Even after service, Bennett is on a mission to out the fakers, forgers and posers who make up the military’s Hall of Shame.
“If they have a Facebook, we all dog pile their Facebook site and we just continuously hound them and hound them until they do finally come public and apologize.”
But the impersonators recently scored a major victory at the U.S. Supreme Court when Justices struck down the Stolen Valor Act in a 6-3 vote. The law made it a federal crime to lie about receiving military medals. The majority opinion ruled that the broadly written law violated the First Amendment right to free speech. The decision was disappointing for this dad. "How am I supposed to teach her the right thing to do if our own federal government says yes, to go out and lie to people and say you've done all those great, honorable things that you never did.”
There are plans for a more specific law in the works in Congress that would prohibit falsifying claims of military service. Some proponents are pushing to create a public database of honor recipients, which would allow people to verify suspicious claims.