9th Circuit Court of Appeals Rules Theft of Military Honor is “Free Speech”

I spent eight years in the United States Air Force. I’ve seen action during the Gulf War, and I left the military with 11 ribbons. A federal appeals court has thrown out one man’s conviction for wearing military medals he did not earn. As a matter of fact, here are my ribbons:

Significant Medals include Air Force Commendation Medal, The Air Force Achievement Medal, AF Oustanding Unit along with the Air Force Good Conduct Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster. I also was an expert marksman for two weapons (which includes the star.)

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I earned each one with my service, which is why the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling is so offensive to those who have served and are serving in America’s Armed Forces.

At issue is Elven Swisher, who lied about secret missions to Korea and classified wars in order to receive $2,366 per month in benefits from the Veterans Administration. Among his fraudulent claims is that he received a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with “V” device, and a Purple Heart.

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Swisher stole recognitions bestowed on honorable men who served and sacrificed. Theft is not freedom os speech.

According to Stars and Stripes, Swisher:

“served in the Marine Corps from 1954 to 1957, the Chronicle reported. In 2001, he applied for disability benefits, claiming he had been wounded in a secret mission to North Korea in 1955, after the Korean War ended. The Department of Veterans Affairs granted the request in 2004 after Swisher submitted what appeared to be a military document saying he had been awarded a Silver Star and other medals for his actions.

“But the VA learned in 2006 that the document was forged and ordered Swisher to repay the benefits, the paper noted. He was later convicted and sentenced to a year in prison on charges that included stealing government funds and
wearing unauthorized medals at a veterans’ event.

“The appeals court upheld Swisher’s conviction in 2009, but he filed a new appeal after the court, in a 2010 case, struck down a federal law that made it a crime to lie about earning military decorations. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-3 ruling, agreed with the Ninth Circuit in June 2012 that the law violated freedom of speech. But three months later, in another case, a different Ninth Circuit panel upheld the ban on wearing unearned military medals.”

Investigators looked into Swisher’s military claims after he testified to receiving the awards during a 2005 trial of another man charged with soliciting the murder of a federal judge.

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You can read the full decision here (PDF link).

It is unconscionable that a court would rule in such a way to dishonor our military men and women and not convict a thief.  

Wayne E. Dupree is the 2015 American Conservative Union Blogger of the Year, an award-winning radio host and the founder of WAARadio – We Are America Radio.

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