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Military can catalog World War I bombs but not medals?

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on Aug. 5, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
August 3, 2012 5:49 pm

This editorial, which will appear in Monday’s print edition, is an expanded version of an earlier blog posting.

For the last six years, Lt. Col. Jenns Robertson has been compiling a database listing every bomb the Air Force has dropped since World War I.

Sounds like a monumental mission, right? For World War II alone, he had to scan an estimated 10,000 pages of bombing reports.

Yet the Pentagon has long said that it would be too hard for it to compile another database – one listing medals given to service members. Such an online database would allow the media and individuals to verify claims many people falsely make regarding decorations they supposedly received.

The Pentagon’s argument always seemed specious. So it was welcome news to learn that at least the Department of Defense is taking baby steps toward setting up a medals database. However, its new website, which was 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 recipients of the Silver Star – again only those awarded after 9/11. But it won’t list Purple Heart recipients – a medal often claimed by ersatz heroes.

Such a database is needed because so many people (all right, let’s be honest here – men) falsely claim to be decorated veterans. That’s a slap in the face to those who rightfully earned those honors, often at the cost of their lives.

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, a change that many expect will have a good chance of passing judicial scrutiny.

How is the military able to document every bomb it dropped since World War I yet can’t figure out how to document medals it’s given 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.

Actually, such a database probably would have to date only to the Vietnam War era. Few con artists are claiming medals for the Korean War, and they’d have to be getting way up in years to be credibly claiming World War II honors.

Maybe the Defense Department could switch Lt. Col. Robertson over to the project. He appears to know how to get this sort of thing done.

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