Some months ago I met a man here in Parkersburg, West Virginia who every day is in U. S. Army camo fatigues, complete with boots and Army staff sergeant rank insignia. The man is an inebriant who calls himself Rambo. At one point several months ago, I asked him of his service. He laughed and said: "I never served". He further explained that a friend gave him the uniform and insignia. I have witnessed him several times in an intoxicated state harassing people while wearing this attire. To me this is a total mockery of and disgrace to that uniform and the men who earned the right to wear it. That is why I am trying to find out who to contact to file a complaint for violation of the Stolen Valor Act.
The Stolen Valor Act was a signature piece of legislation that The American Legion worked very hard to see pass. You might remember that this law needed to be passed twice. After initial passage, it was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in the United States v. Alvarez case of 2012. The court ruled that the law was written too broadly, and that defendant Alvarez's freedom of speech (expression) was being violated simply because he wanted to play dress up with military insignia that he didn't earn.
Since then, and taking a lesson from the supreme court ruling, we were able to get a new Stolen Valor Act passed last year that more narrowly defined an offence to anyone who wears the uniform of this nation, or lies about awards or decorations, for the purpose of personal or financial gain. This definition is not as strong as we would like it, but at least it's something.
Based on what you have told us about your situation, it doesn't sound like this offence would be covered under the Stolen Valor Act, as ugly, offensive and egregious as it is.
I'm sorry that people specifically seek to embarrass the uniform and the uniformed members of The United States of America. The American Legion shares your disgust and outrage, but again, and based only on what you have shared with us, it does not appear that “Rambo” has broken any laws, and has done little more than defile his own poor reputation.
All the best,
Louis J. Celli Jr.
Director, National Legislative Division