While the military is very interested in recruiting, there are some people who seem to prefer to pretend to be soldiers. While it is certainly fine for kids to do this, it is certainly not fine for adults to try to pass themselves off as veterans-especially highly decorated veterans. One recent case alleges that Steve Burton, a banker, went to his high school reunion dressed as a marine officer. He is, however, neither a marine nor an officer. To make matters worse, it is alleged that he wore medals-including the rather rare Navy Cross. It is also alleged that Burton blogged about serving in combat, although he obviously has not done so.
He has been charged with “unauthorized wearing of military medals or decorations.” This is a federal misdemeanor and has a maximum penalty of one year in prison.
While wearing such unearned medals might seem a small matter, the action is morally incorrect. First, to claim such honors when one has not earned them is an act of deception. Second, such an action is an insult to those who have actually earned them. While I have not served in the military, I am sure that real soldiers are not very happy about this sort of behavior. After all, as an athlete I am not pleased with people who buy trophies and pretend that they won them (yes, people do this). So, I can imagine that if such deception bothers me then such deception about more important awards (like the Navy Cross) would bother military personnel.
Naturally, one might wonder why people do this. After all, they can easily join the service and earn the uniform honestly. Getting the medals for real would be much more of a challenge-but it can be done. Of course, that would involve actually facing danger and risk-which is much harder than playing make believe.
One obvious reason is that the military is rather popular these days, so passing as a military hero is a way to score points and perhaps get better treatment in some cases (such as the free meal Applebees offered on Veteran’s Day). Another obvious reason is that people like to think of themselves as heroes and play make believe. Of course, most folks limit this sort of thing to idle fantasies or to games. This is generally harmless and all part of being human. However, some people clearly decide to take it beyond the idle fantasy or daydream stage and actually pretend to be soldiers. Even if they do not use this to their own advantage (to get special treatment, for example), this is not something that should be done. It is, of course, tempting to think that such people should be punished not by time in prison but by being enlisted into the military and sent into combat. That way they could live the dream.
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- Accused Military Fake Steven Burton Charged: Man Allegedly Wore Unearned medals To Class Reunion (huffingtonpost.com)
- US marine with a Purple Heart exposed as a fraud (telegraph.co.uk)