Medals and Medalists

by Jay Nordlinger

In today’s Impromptus, I mention the Stolen Valor Act, saying I’m of two minds about it: “On one hand, it’s wrong to lie about military medals. On the other, it’s wrong to lie period. Protected speech and all that.”

A reader writes,

I spent 25-plus years in the Air Force and along the way collected a handful of medals. My Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded for some activity in Vietnam, and the Air Medals are for surviving a bunch of combat missions of various types.

I, like you, have mixed feelings about so-called stolen valor. People who fake military service and/or deeds that resulted in medals seem to me to have enough problems without piling on by the government. They surely live in fear that their lies will be exposed at some point. Probably the ridicule that such people should be subjected to when they are found out is punishment enough. Con men and others who commit fraud can be punished under existing law.

Here is another item from Impromptus:

This is dicey: Landing on my desk was a book by a soldier. Above his name, on the cover, it said “Medal of Honor Recipient.” I thought, “No real Medal of Honor recipient would want to be identified as a Medal of Honor recipient. Probably a publisher’s decision, for the sake of sales.”

The same letter-writer says, “I have known only two Medal of Honor recipients, personally. Both would certainly agree with your comment. I can’t speak to the rest, however.”

In my experience, war heroes are just about the most reticent people on earth. (Same with heroes generally, I suppose.)