A solution for stolen valor



It seems fake SEALs, POWs and medal recipients are spreading like a virus.

The latest is Steven Douglas Burton, who showed up at his 20-year high school reunion as a Marine Corps lieutenant colonel – and sporting a Navy Cross. You can read about it here.

Navy Times certainly has covered its share of fakers in recent months:

  • Robert J. Warren, who passed himself off as a former SEAL and prisoner of war. He defrauded the Veterans Affairs Department and Social Security Administration of $280,000 over seven years, and will likely receive 21 to 27 months’ imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release when sentenced April 20
  • Thomas Barnhart, a retired Coast Guard chief warrant officer 2 who claimed to be a decorated and combat-hardened SEAL – and managed to get a disability rating from the government. He pleaded guilty Jan. 6 in federal court in Roanoke, Va., to two counts of violating federal Stolen Valor. Barnhart’s sentencing is set for April 8 in Roanoke. He faces 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine
  • Jeffrey Sparenberg, a chief who wore a Bronze Star with “V,” Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal and Combat Action Ribbon. He said they were earned for actions on the destroyer Cole during and after the Oct. 12, 2000, suicide bomber attack in Aden, Yemen. He actually reported on board the day after. NCIS is still dragging its feet on whether to file formal charges.

Jonathan Turley, the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University and member of USA TODAY’s board of contributors, raises the issue in an interesting column titled Stolen valor is offensive, but is it a crime?

Scoop Deck says it is.

To “steal” valor is arguably a greater crime than grand larceny, as it steals a precious treasure whose worth cannot be measured — and in doing so, the thief robs countless veterans who paid the true price of freedom.

Yes, Stolen Valor is a crime. And it is a crime that too often carries too soft a punishment. So Scoop Deck has come up with a solution.

When someone wears a SEAL trident unworthily, hand them over to the SEALs at BUDS and let them spend a few weeks going through the course. If they wrongly say they are a force recon Marine, turn them over to such. And if they claim medals they didn’t earn, make them visit every wounded vet in our military hospitals, or watch our troops as they honorably escort every flag-draped coffin home.

Yes, Stolen Valor is a crime. And yes, we are keeping track.


About Author

A Navy brat who spent eight years in the Marines (two years aboard the carrier Independence). Worked in journalism in Eastern North Carolina through the latter part of the 90s, then became editor of Air Force Times in 2000. Stayed there five years, then took a break to finish some school. Now back in the game with Navy Times.

1 Comment

  1. Amen to that. If these guys want to talk big, let them try to walk big. Send them off to the hellish schools the real SEALS and SWCC guys go to and see if they can hack it. It was never my dream to do special warfare, but I know many who think about it every waking moment, and are molding themselves physically and mentally every minute of every day to achieve that goal. I have no pity, nor would I have any mercy, for those who would diminish what my brothers are working for, and what thousands have already accomplished.

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