Inside Opinion

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Tag: Medal of Honor


Please, Pentagon: Give us a Stolen Valor database

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

The Stolen Valor Act, which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a week ago, went a very long way to avoid a quarrel with the First Amendment.

It didn’t threaten just anyone who falsely claimed military honors. If there was any way a claim of combat distinction could be theoretically argued, the law didn’t apply. It didn’t apply even to the vast majority of false claims of heroism.

Under the 2005 law, you could still lie about being a military veteran. You could lie about being a brave veteran.

You could lie about fighting in Vietnam even if you were 3 years old at the time. You could lie about fighting fearlessly in the Battle of Khe Sanh, lie about saving lives there, lie about routing the Viet Cong single-handedly. You could lie about being gravely wounded yet giving up your place on the helicopter so that your buddies could be evacuated instead.

You could lie about being tortured as a prisoner of war and refusing to give in. You could lie extravagantly enough to get free drinks from everyone in sight for the rest of your life.

The single thing you could not do is lie about receiving the Medal of Honor or other specific military decoration if a prosecutor could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you had not received one and knowingly claimed you did.

It had to be a lie refuted by objective, bright-line proof – a lie comparable to advertising a Fountain of Youth Cream that supposedly turns 70-year-olds into 20-year-olds, complete with magical birth certificates. The law was so narrow, so based on matters of unambiguous record, that it left no room to single out unpopular opinions or criticism of government.
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There are heroes like Sgt. 1st Class Petry among us

President Obama awards the Medal of Honor to Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry Tuesday at the White House. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT)
This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

This is all you need to know to understand why a Joint Base Lewis-McChord Ranger and Steilacoom resident was awarded the nation’s highest military honor Tuesday:

Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Arthur Petry already had been shot in both legs when grenades came at him and fellow soldiers during a firefight in Afghanistan four years ago. He grabbed one of the grenades, and in getting rid of it, his hand was blown off. Then Petry applied a tourniquet to his own arm – and kept fighting, barking out orders to help his unit prevail.

After all that, Petry could have been excused for leaving the Army, for saying he’d sacrificed enough for his country. Instead, the husband and father of four stayed in – and even returned to Afghanistan for another tour of duty. Today, he’s back at JBLM helping other soldiers wounded in war. Read more »