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Testing Their Medal


A fun part of fashion season is seeing who sends the best invites for shows. But as’s resident military expert—and former captain in the Third Marine Air Wing, First Marine Expeditionary Force—I was piqued when we received invitations to the Commonwealth Utilities show, which came packaged with actual military medals. (We were sent, left to right, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star, the Army Achievement Medal, and the Vietnam Service Medal, all of which are meant to be worn with dress uniforms.)

The criteria for awarding these medals are specific and clear. The DFC is for—I’m paraphrasing slightly, but the full description is available here—an “act of heroism above and beyond the call of duty, an accomplishment so exceptional and outstanding as to clearly set the individual apart from his/her comrades.” The Bronze Star: “heroic or meritorious achievement or service while engaged in an action against an enemy…” These decorations stand for something. And it’s not a seat assignment.

Am I reading too much into this? Maybe. Overreacting? Perhaps. But in times like ours, where servicemen and -women are earning these medals in combat and many are dying on a daily basis, I find the reckless disregard by CU to the honor of the uniform offensive.

Oh, and by the way, if you’re thinking of pinning one of these freebies on and parading around in it during fashion week, you should be aware it’s illegal. In 2006, Congress passed the Stolen Valor Act, which prohibits wearing, selling, or manufacturing military decorations without authorization, as well as falsely representing oneself as having been awarded them. (You can read the full text of the act here.) It ain’t just words on paper, either—here’s a case of a man who was charged under it at the end of last year.

Semper Fi!

Photo: Steven Torres



  1. be_are_why says:

    I have first hand experience with the un authorized wearing of official military decorations. As a knuckle-headed 16year old SoCal punk, I was wearing two silver stars on my black leather jacket, I was filling up my piece of junk motorcycle at the gas station and a cop rolls up and proceeds to berate me, and not let me leave until I hand over the stars to him. Being the cocky jerk that I was, of course I said no, he cuffed me and tore them off himself. I knew I was in the wrong. Oh yeah this all took place in San Clemente, CA, right next door to the largest Marine Corp base in the country, Camp Pendelton. I learned real quick the actual meaning and sacrifice that stand behind these decorations.

  2. cbrodesser says:

    Ick. I’m as big a bed-wetting, pink-o commie, tree-hugging, liberal as the next latte-sipping New York Times reader. But I also have friends who are pulling their third tour in Afghanistan as Army Rangers. And I can tell you: Our guys don’t have nearly enough support. There are hardly enough helicopters to deliver them safely, and so they have to roll out in Humvees. Afghanistan is as flat as the floor in your office in the areas where it’s not mountainous. The result is that when Rangers are not being blown up by IEDs, the Taliban can see their convoys kicking up dust 50 miles away, our guys get sniped at left and right. When your life is in danger pretty much every moment of the day, it says something when the military actually gives you a medal for ‘heroism’. I say, “Booo!” to this massively thoughtless breach of etiquette. I am sure it was done out of ignorance, not malice, but it behooves us all to think a bit before we act. We spent 8 years with a president who thought Afghanistan was only a fifth as important as the botched occupation of Iraq. Now that we’re making a concentrated effort to prevent exactly the sort of failed state that lead to Islamo-fascism spreading like kudzu, we might think twice before handing out like bookmarks the only tokens of gratitude given to those who literally put their comrades lives above everything else they know and love back home. It pains me to read such things, because it only serves to divide this nation further and needlessly. I can already see this being exploited by jingoistic meat-heads who see Obama as a Kenyan socialist who lights his Benson & Hedges menthols from a smoldering copy of the Constitution. Those of us who can tell Zak Posen from from some poser do not love America, it’s values or it’s troops any less than the most ardent flag-waving Marine mommy. But we sure do a good job of making it seem like we take their sacrifices as pathetic jokes. The CU should fall on it’s sword here, and apologize abjectly. It should also turn this into a moment of thoughtlessness into an hour of thoughtfulness: Our forces leave behind families who in some cases are literally on food stamps and shopping in consignment stores to clothe their kids. Why not turn this event into a charity auction to support something like Operation Homefront down in San Antonio, TX? (For those unaware of it’s mission, Operation Homefront provides emergency assistance to more than 105,000 military families in financial crisis; it’s given goods and services valued at more than 6.5 million dollars to assist military families; and an excess of 20,000 care packages delivered to soldiers abroad with an additional 2,500 packages delivered to military families at home. Best of all, 91% of its operating expenses are used for direct assistant. Just a thought.

  3. NYCNavygirl says:

    Bravo for the posting, Jon! Out of curiosity, will be interested to hear if anyone wears the medals at the show.

  4. lggarrison says:

    Commonwealth Utilities wasn’t “awarding” anyone military honors when they sent out the invitations. The medals are beautiful and I believe CU were showcasing and honoring that beauty. So CU committed a faux pas. No harm was intended. I don’t think they intended invitees to wear the medals.

    Regardless, there are many, many medals for sell on eBay. If the Stolen Valor Act should be taken seriously, then law enforcement agencies should shut down these auctions.

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