Battleland

Of Bracelets and Bits of Colored Ribbon, Earned Or Otherwise

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A KIA bracelet honoring a fallen Marine...

Soldiers, like all of us, want recognition. Sure, the mission comes first, and then your buddies, and maybe, eventually, you. But such recognition is hard-earned, and outsiders tinker with it at their peril.

That’s why two recent events are worth noting. One involves — of all things — jewelry worn by Marines to honor those lost in battle. The second concerns a court’s decision to protect fake soldiers boasting of fake heroics from punishment. Both would probably not have happened if the nation were at peace…

The Marines have decided to let their troops wear metal or rubber bracelets commemorating those killed, captured or missing in war zones. The wristbands had become popular among some Marines — especially those wearing them to honor a lost buddy — but Marine regulations didn’t explicitly permit them when in uniform. That meant they were officially barred, until General James Amos, the Marine commandant, approved of them Tuesday. “We are acknowledging the close personal nature of our 10 years at war,” Amos said, “and the strong bonds of fidelity that Marines have for one another, especially for those fellow Marines who we have lost.

On the Pentagon-run Stars and Stripes website, poster Weedo hailed the decision. “If you can’t honor your fallen buddies somebody does not belong in the military,” he said. “Because the common foot soldier’s are family you may not know him but he is your buddie.”

The day before, the Supreme Court decided to hear arguments on 2006’s Stolen Valor Act, which punishes those who fraudulently boast of wearing U.S. military medals and the alleged exploits that earned them (wearing them is already against the law). The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled earlier this year that barring someone from bragging about an online Medal of Honor or Silver Star violated his (haven’t heard of a woman doing this) First Amendment rights.

We should celebrate the common thread here: troops have been waging war for a decade with scant sacrifice asked of the American public — in whose name they are purportedly fighting. How they want to honor their lost comrades should be left to them. And if the high court confirms the 9th Circuit’s ruling (to be argued sometime next year) that soldier-wannabes can brag about U.S. military decorations that they didn’t earn, well, better not let such pretenders within range of the genuine article.

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