Supreme Court Chucks “Stolen Valor,” Too Little, Too Late


How Phony Does a Phony Have to Be to Be a Real Phony?


By Gordon Duff, Senior Editor


Yesterday, the “Stolen Valor Act,” a law that made it illegal to wear phony medals or tell war stories was overturned as a violation of the First Amendment.  The term “stolen valor” came from a 1990s book by B.J. Burkett who had phoned me to check on information he had been given about a Marine “hero,” Daniel Staggs. 

I knew Staggs, a Marine sniper and good friend who died in prison, not as Burkett had been told, as a prison counselor but doing 90 years for murder and armed robbery.  Staggs was killed in prison by a now confessed mass murderer.  Staggs won a Silver Star in Vietnam, his nickname “the sandman.”  He really died in Vietnam but wasn’t buried until his bones were tossed into a dirt hole outside Jackson Prison in 1982.

Jackson Prison was filled with Vietnam Veterans back then, as prisons are filling up now with war heroes who have their medals hung on the walls of their cells.  America should be proud.

Burkett told me of his own service, he held a respectable very rear echelon job, doing what was assigned.  He was no hero but he was there.  I am a decorated Marine infantryman and hold among the nations highest civilian decorations.

In truth, I am no hero either.  There is no such thing, famed World War II “GI Joe” author, Ernie Pyle, killed on Okinawa, was always willing to tell it straight.

I have issues with Burkett.  During the Kerry/Bush election, he helped lead the attack on Kerry and in doing so supported the statements of those who claimed Kerry had lied about his service.  Every person Burkett had supported was later proven a liar.

Billionaire Warren Buffett who financed the attack on Kerry promised a million dollars to Paralyzed Veterans of America if proven wrong.  When he was proven wrong, he welshed, never paying his debt.  I contacted Buffet (email mobuffett@xxxxxxxx) and he was evasive and mean spirited.  To me he owes American veterans a million dollars. Buffet graduated from college in 1950 and got married in 1952.  He never served a day of military service in his life and we have no information how he avoided service in the Korean War.

His father was a Congressman and Buffett has spent millions attacking the honorable service of veterans, millions spent publishing falsehoods about veterans but there isn’t a single word in his self financed online biography as to why he was “unavailable” for military service.  At least Burkett went to Vietnam although his service wasn’t a tenth as dangerous as that of al Gore and not 1% of either mine or John Kerry’s.

Funny thing, war heroes tend to be made rather conveniently.  As a Marine combat veteran, I have seen dozens of acts that exceed the written version of Medal of Honor citations.  Those involved received nothing.  I have been wounded enough time to wear between 3 and 6 Purple hearts, depending on how much lying I am willing to do, but wear none.  Purple hearts are for the dead and those who lose limbs or sight, who suffer catastrophic physical disabilities, not for those hit by pieces of metal, wounds repairable by a field dressing.

Nearly 20,000 Marines died in Vietnam, few won medals, all could have been given medals and maybe should have or, better yet, none.

In my unit, Bronze and Silver Stars were awarded to senior personnel and officers and “end of tour awards.”  The stories of their exploits, all total lies, were typed on mimeograph sheets, where the names and dates were changed.

They hung on nails to be taken down, filled out with a new name and date and submitted with 9 copies to be signed by the deputy unit commander.

One former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff won a Purple Heart for stepping on a “punji stake” while inside an an American base, heading to a luxury meal.  His steel soled boot prevented any injury.

He won a Bronze Star with Combat “V” soon after for “saving” troops from a crashed helicopter a few yards from the “punji stake” location.  I have only been in 3 helicopter crashes,  others many more, we always helped people out and no one ever was rewarded for holding out a hand.

Then we have  Colonel Bud Day, the front man and divorce lawyer for John McCain.  He has a Medal of Honor and tells of it daily.  He has the only Medal of Honor issued without a witness other than himself.  This is the official US government policy on awarding a medal of honor:

“The Medal of Honor is the highest award for bravery that can be given to any individual in the United States of America. Conceived in the early 1860’s and first presented in 1863, the medal has a colorful and inspiring history which has culminated in the standards applied today for awarding this respected honor.

In their provisions for judging whether a man is entitled to the Medal of Honor, each of the armed services has set up regulations which permit no margin of doubt or error. The deed of the person must be proved by incontestable evidence of at least two eyewitnesses; it must be so outstanding that it clearly distinguishes his gallantry beyond the call of duty from lesser forms of bravery; it must involve the risk of his life; and it must be of the type of deed which, if he had not done it, would not subject him to any justified criticism.” ( By David F. Burrelli, Library of Congress,Congressional Research Service, Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division)

You should read the citation.  I won’t begin to describe it.  I find it considerably less than credible but that is just my humble opinion.  As you note above, regulations apply also.  They are not “opinion.”

He got the medal with the help of Admiral McCain of USS Liberty infamy, some say because of blackmail.  I have no proof of that.

Then there is John McCain.  Colonel Ted Guy, his POW commanding officer demanded he be tried for treason.  Instead, McCain got a dozen medals and a Presidential Pardon which few know about.

McCain made 32 propaganda broadcasts while a POW, asking for US troops to surrender, accused the US of war crimes, talked to foreign journalists, was debriefed by Russian KGB and openly admits to training North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gunners and aiding them in positioning their weapons.

US Army Colonel Earl Hopper (deceased) estimates that 60 American planes were shot down because of McCain.

During McCain’s entire career in politics, he has worked against POW families, assisted North Vietnam in hiding evidence of POWs alive, according to a statement from our Chief POW recovery officers in Thailand, a high ranking Special Forces Intelligence Officer and long time friend and co-worker.

McCain still talks of his own heroism yet those who were there to witness it said he was a collaborator and traitor.  Who do you believe?

Today we have 30,000 soldiers who were ejected from the military, many of them decorated combat veterans but now considered not just “unfit” but dishonored and with no rights.  In almost all cases, a systematic program of persecution was leveled at these troops to avoid paying them disability compensation or retirement.  Some had 19 years and 6 months of honorable service.

See a pattern there?

To those who really serve in war, an occupation thousands of years old, one requiring fighting to the death for reasons no one ever understands than survival itself, the concept of “hero” is seen as disgusting and phony.  The idea of giving out medals came from Napoleon who laughed at the idea he could reward sacrifice with cheap metal and ribbons rather than money and great estates.

Wrong as it may be, I still see some as heroes, the Marines at Guadalcanal or Iwo Jima, I served in those units, or Marines at Belleau Wood in World War I, whose decorations I am entitled to wear on my uniform, earned in a war years before my birth.

Anymore, the hero game, and it is a game, is one that rewards the cowards, the privileged and, only on the rarest of occasions, one that sacrificed their all for their friends.  They are one in 10,000.

Even those, if they were asked among the ghosts of their fellow squad members would deny any heroism.  Such talk was seen as boastful and unmanly.

It was then, it is now.  In Vietnam, the term “hero” referred to someone who had contracted a venereal disease.  You could tell a “hero” because they screamed when they urinated.

Here at VT, my good friend and “highly decorated hero,” Bill Eckard died about a year ago, a triple amputee.  I have been with Bill when we were both scared to death.  I miss him.

I have another good friend who won a Silver Star and DSC in 60 days in Vietnam, most of it spent running a drug lab, with a few days on Medivac duty.  He had a “mentor” with rank and a typewriter.  The medals have haunted him all his life.

I saw my first combat over 43 years ago.  It is actually written down somewhere as I was awarded a Combat Action Ribbon that day.  This is the only medal real Marines wear and our brothers in the Army have their Combat Infantryman Badges.

Marines also have their other brothers, the Navy Corpsmen, so many of them died at our sides.

Few are remembered.

I would rather have my almost 2 million dead friends back, yes that many have died, lives shortened by Vietnam, and have thousands of Pentagon Princes, phonies and “bar stool heroes” telling their tales or glory.

None of it matters.

Now it is law.


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Gordon Duff posted articles on VT from 2008 to 2022. He is a Marine combat veteran of the Vietnam War. A disabled veteran, he worked on veterans and POW issues for decades. Gordon is an accredited diplomat and is generally accepted as one of the top global intelligence specialists. He manages the world's largest private intelligence organization and regularly consults with governments challenged by security issues. Duff has traveled extensively, is published around the world, and is a regular guest on TV and radio in more than "several" countries. He is also a trained chef, wine enthusiast, avid motorcyclist, and gunsmith specializing in historical weapons and restoration. Business experience and interests are in energy and defense technology.