FREDA PHILOMENA D’SOUZA, San Clemente
“Stolen Valor” is a term applied to the phenomenon of people falsely claiming military awards or badges they did not earn, service they did not perform, Prisoner of War experiences that never happened, and other tales of military daring.
The Supreme Court recently said, “Our Nation has a long tradition of according leniency to veterans in recognition of their service, especially for those who fought on the front lines. When imposters claim this status, they steal leniency, credibility, respect, and sympathy from the American public.”
Section 532b of California Penal Code Part 1, Chapter 8—False Personation and Cheats states in (c1): a person who orally, in writing, or by wearing any military decoration, fraudulently represents himself or herself to have been awarded a military decoration, with the intent to obtain money, property, or other tangible benefit, is guilty of a misdemeanor per the “California Stolen Valor Act.”
Individuals who violate the Stolen Valor Act can face a maximum penalty of one year in prison. In addition, convicted individuals will face fines of amounts left to the discretion of the judge.
San Clemente has its own alleged “Stolen Valor” culprit—Gene James, whose campaign literature mailed by the Republican Party of Orange County (OCGOP) on Oct. 14 claimed he received the “Legion of Merit.” Rather than immediately addressing the falsehood, James waited about three weeks, until just days before the Nov. 5 election deadline, to fess up. His excuse was that the OCGOP had sent the flyer out without his knowledge.
When cornered, James told the San Clemente Times that he “doesn’t even know what medals he received.” Preposterous! Every veteran receives a list of medals and commendations they received in service in an official document called “DD-214.” They need their DD-214 to receive Veterans Administration benefits.
Complaints about Gene James’ alleged Stolen Valor have been filed with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. The OC District Attorney has been asked to investigate.
San Clemente does not deserve to have someone like Gene James on our city council.