STOLEN VALOR ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - December 06, 2006)
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Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. Speaker, first of all, let me thank Chairman Sensenbrenner and Ranking Member Conyers for allowing us to bring this important legislation forward. As you all know, Senator Conrad from the Senate side, both his staff and my staff worked in a bipartisan effort to bring this important act forward.
This act would actually place a criminal penalty on those who falsely claim to have risked their lives for their country, and restoring honor to those who have truly earned it.
Last year, in Pueblo, Colorado, I met with Pam Sterner of Pueblo, who was attending Colorado State University in Pueblo, and also with Medal of Honor recipient Peter Lemmon of Colorado Springs.
Pam had recently completed a working paper on the issue of military medals fraud for a political science class at Colorado State University, Pueblo. With her research and with some of her language, we drafted the Stolen Valor Act of 2005.
Current law basically allows Federal law enforcement to prosecute individuals who physically wear medals on their person. The problem has been occurring where individuals are claiming to have earned these medals and there is no way for authorities to be able to prosecute these individuals. These frauds and these phonies have diminished the meaning and the honor of the recognitions received by our military heroes.
In addition to diminishing the meaning, on several occasions phonies have used their stature as a decorated war hero to gain credibility that allows them to commit more serious frauds.
B.G. Burkett's award winning book, ``Stolen Valor,'' first exposed the problems of these medals fraud. The authors show that killers have fooled the most astute prosecutors and gotten away with murder. They show phony heroes who have become the object of national award-winning documentaries on national network television. They show liars and fabricators who have flooded major publishing houses with false tales of heroism which have become best-selling biographies.
Not only do the authors show the price of the myth has been enormous for society, but they spotlight how it has severely denigrated the service, patriotism, and gallantry of the best warriors America's ever produced.
The Stolen Valor Act, H.R. 3352, makes a language fix to the current Federal statute, to include making verbal and written claims to be the recipient of a military medal that they were not entitled to.
This bill expands penalties currently in effect for the Medal of Honor to apply to the so-called valor medals, including but not limited to the Distinguished Service Crosses of the respective military branches and the Purple Heart.
Our bill, H.R. 3352, a companion bill of Senate bill 1998, now has 110 cosponsorships with, as Ranking member CONYERS stated, 73 Democrats and 37 Republicans.
H.R. 3352 has been endorsed by numerous veterans and law enforcement organizations, including the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, the Military Order of the Purple Heart and the FBI Agents Association.
The Stolen Valor Act may well be the most sweeping legislation affecting military awards since the Medal of Honor review of 1917, during which this criteria for awarding our Nation's highest military award was strengthened. During the 1917 review, Congress began establishing a series of lesser awards which has evolved to become the Pyramid of Honor. This is a series of medals awarded to members of the military in increasing levels of importance and prestige.
Subsequent to this review of 1917, little had been legislated in regard to these awards beyond authorization of new awards or slight changes in the awards process. Additionally, the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 restores a precedent established by General George Washington. This was when he first instituted our first individual military award in 1782.
In his General Orders issued from his headquarters in Newburg, New York, on August 7, 1782, General Washington established the Badge for Military Merit, which in 1932 was revised as the Purple Heart. General Washington noted the following point with regard to military awards: ``Should any who are not entitled to these honors have the insolence to assume the badges of them, they shall be severely punished.''
The success of the Stolen Valor Act is notable because both Democrats and Republicans from both Houses have worked together in a unique display of teamwork on behalf of our brave men and women in uniform.
Mr. Speaker, it is time to protect and honor those who have earned the right to wear these prestigious medals.
Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to vote ``yes'' on Senate bill 1998, the Stolen Valor Act of 2005.
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