Medal Database Sought to
Associated Press | October 05, 2007
WASHINGTON -- A pair of congressmen
want to establish the first database for military awards to help
law enforcement officials catch and prosecute military frauds.
The measure, to be introduced in the
House this week, would collect the names of all current and former
servicemembers who have earned military medals including the Medal
of Honor, Silver Star and Purple Heart. Certain Coast Guard and
Merchant Marine medals also would be included.
That database would be made available
to law enforcement and certain researchers to help them determine
rightful heroes from clever frauds.
Last year, Congress approved the Stolen
Valor Act, making false possession and display of certain
high-level military medals punishable by up to six months in jail.
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But sponsor Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo.,
said many of the cases proved difficult to prosecute because
investigators had no way to prove or disprove whether a suspect
actually earned any medals.
"These honors are reserved for
those who willingly risked their lives for our country," he
said in a statement. "It is our job to protect the honor and
integrity of our veterans, to make sure the memory of their
heroism is not tarnished."
Defense Department officials had no
comment on the pending legislation. Many of the service's old
records are spread out through various subagencies and are not yet
digitized, which likely would make creating the database a
Doug Sterner, a Vietnam veteran whose
research has exposed dozens of military frauds, agrees that
compiling the data will take time, but insists it is not an
In his research, he has tracked down
numerous missing or forgotten citations, and said putting together
a clearinghouse of medal recipients will prevent those records
from being lost again.
"I think that's the real value of
this bill," he said. "Having a database to help expose
frauds is good. But having a database to preserve history and our
heroes is even more important."
Salazar and co-sponsor Rep. Patrick
Murphy, D-Pa., said recent reports of new scam artists claiming to
be Iraq veterans further underscore the need for the legislation.
Last month, researchers also discovered
that the Veterans History Project, a multimillion-dollar
collection of more than 50,000 oral and written war stories from
Americans sponsored by the Library of Congress, included many
stories of men claiming medals they never earned.