Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

NOTICE: Inside Opinion has moved.

With the launch of our new website, we've moved Inside Opinion.
Visit the new section.

Pentagon inches into a Stolen Valor database

Post by Cheryl Tucker on Aug. 1, 2012 at 2:21 pm with 4 Comments »
August 1, 2012 4:39 pm
An F-16CJ from the 78th Fighter Squadron, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., releases a 2,000 pound bomb during a test mission in 2003. (TECH SGT. MICHAEL AMMONS/US AIR FORCE)

On the website I learned that the Air Force is compiling a database listing every bomb its planes have dropped since World War I. Sounds like a monumental mission, right?

Yet the Pentagon has long said that it would be too hard for it to compile a database listing medals given to service members – something that could be checked to verify claims all too many people falsely make.

I always thought that argument a little specious. So I was glad to learn that the Pentagon is backtracking and is, indeed, setting up a medal database. It’s taking baby steps, though. A new website unveiled late last month lists only recent recipients – since Sept. 11, 2001 – of the Medal of Honor and service crosses.

The Pentagon says the database eventually will also list Silver Star recipients – again only after 9/11. But it won’t list Purple Heart recipients, which a lot of people falsely claim to have been awarded.

Such a database is needed because so many people (all right, let’s be honest here – men) falsely claim to be decorated veterans. Congress tried to address the problem with the 2005 Stolen Valor Act, which made it illegal to lie about having been awarded any U.S. decoration or medal. But the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that the law was an unconstitutional infringement of free speech. Now efforts are under way to make it illegal to try to profit from lying about being decorated.

I’m having a hard time understanding how the military can document every bomb it dropped since World War I but can’t figure out how to document medals it gave out earlier than Sept. 11, 2001. All that tells hero wannabes is that they should be careful to only claim medals awarded earlier than that date.

Can anyone who knows better than I how the military operates explain this to me? I must be missing something.



Leave a comment Comments → 4
  1. Another problem for the embattled current mayor of puyallup. In the last voters pamphlet, he claimed to be a vietnam war veteran. In his dreams ! By the time word got out, the election was over.

    In oregon it is a felony. A sitting congressman was prosecuted and convicted.

    In puyallup, they become mayor and do all kinds of disreputable acts besides stealing valor.

  2. FlyingTigress says:

    You’d have to look through every set of orders (most of which would have existed only as paper copies, and only some of which might have been placed on microfilm/fiche), from each of the five services – plus, presumably, the Merchant Marines, for each person who had served, for that period.

    I had the experience, about 14 years ago, of requesting replacements of my father’s decorations and service medals. It was a complete cluster, and the research took multiple attempts – and even a formal appeal of the initial determination (in which even the SNCO handling the appeal admitted that the initial reviewers “hadn’t done their job very well”). – to get a final determination that was even more accurate than the info on dad’s 1962-vintage DD-214.

    He__, it was only because he had been anal about his record keeping, kept info in his files – and those file folders were *still* around some 35 years after he had retired (and 18 after he had passed-away), that we had evidence.

    Multiply that by, literally, millions of service personnel.

    Nor would going to the National Personnel Records Center in St Louis be of unquestioning record accessibilty from which to develop this database. There was a fire at NPRC in 1973 which destroyed thousands of archived personnel files from Army and USAAF/Air Force personnel – destroyed beyond ability to ever be retrieved.

  3. FlyingTigress says:

    Ironically, a similar request to the Air Force of the Republic of China (Taiwan) took one (1) letter, and less than about six (6) weeks to get both (a) an accurate accounting of the two valor decorations presented to him by the RoC in 1945, and (b) replacements of those two decorations – in spite of the Nationalist Chinese having to retreat to Taiwan in 1949.

    I joked at the time that the Chinese, having nearly 2000 more years of experience (as compared to the US military) of running bureaucratic institutions, had gotten record-keeping down to a fine art.

  4. MikeFishbaugh says:

    DOD can do what a few of us have been working on for several years, myself, about 4 years. At the below link, you will find over 109,000 citations…….
    If a few people (Veterans) can do this, just think what the DOD could do if they wanted too.

We welcome comments. Please keep them civil, short and to the point. ALL CAPS, spam, obscene, profane, abusive and off topic comments will be deleted. Repeat offenders will be blocked. Thanks for taking part and abiding by these simple rules.

JavaScript is required to post comments.

Follow the comments on this post with RSS 2.0