Pentagon Adds Service Crosses to Medals Website
The Pentagon posted the names of the recipients for 68 of the service crosses awarded since 9/11 on the Defense Department’s first medals website designed to protect against military fakers.
Military leaders set up the website after the Supreme Court ruled that free speech under the 1st Amendment included the right to lie about military rank and awards earned in combat.
The department’s site now has a total of 78 listings that include the 10 Medals of Honor awarded since 9/11. By comparison, The Hall of Valor, a site created by Vietnam Veteran Dough Sterner, has listings for 104,781 awards from all wars out of an estimated 350,000 above Bronze Star.
“There are some challenges associated” with compiling the lists, a Pentagon spokeswoman said, citing rights to privacy and individual cases where the recipient, for personal reasons, chooses not to have the award listed.
“But it’s still a way to honor folks and deter fraud. It might not eliminate fraud, but at least it can help deter it,” the spokeswoman said.
The latest Defense Department listing cited 25 recipients of the Army’s Distinguished Service Cross, 38 of the Navy Cross, and five of the Air Force Cross -- all after 9/11. The service crosses are the nation’s second-highest valor award behind only the Medal of Honor.
The Supreme Court struck down the Stolen Valor Act in July. The 6-year-old piece of legislation made it illegal to wear or claim to have won military ribbons or medals that were not earned.
Supreme Court justices ruled in favor of Xavier Alvarez, a man lied in 2007 about earning the Medal of Honor. The Court’s action confirmed that "lying is protected as a general principle," Alvarez' lawyer, Jonathan Libby, said after the decision.
"We certainly don't disagree that what Mr. Alvarez said was wrong, but what the Court said is the government does not get to decide what we can and cannot say," Libby said.
Supporters of the Stolen Valor Act in Congress have sponsored bills to rewrite the law to target only frauds who seek to “benefit from lying about their military service or record.”
The Defense Department last week set up the Military Awards for Valor site in a long-term effort to let the public have a means of verifying military awards.
“It is essential that we honor and recognize our service members’ achievements, while maintaining the integrity of our award data,” said Erin C. Conaton, undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.
“We are working quickly to compile accurate information on the heroes of the post-9/11 conflicts. At the same time, we will work with the military services to identify and seek to address the challenges associated with compiling data from earlier conflicts," Conaton said.