WASHINGTON — The Defense Department will unveil a stolen valor website Wednesday designed to help citizens see if someone is lying about military medals.
President Barack Obama announced the new site as part of his speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention in Reno. Nev., on Monday. Pentagon officials would not release additional details.
An administration official said that record keepers from each military branch have been compiling awards records since the Supreme Court last month struck down the federal Stolen Valor Act, arguing that the punishments for those lying about military medals infringed on free speech.
The website will be hosted at valor.defense.gov and will initially list only the recipients of the military’s highest awards for valor — the Medal of Honor and service crosses — that were awarded after Sept. 11, 2001.
According to the Home of Heroes web site, a private military medals database, only 79 such medals have been awarded for actions since 2001.
The Defense Department is also trying to compile information on Silver Star recipients, but no timetable has been given on when that might be completed. Pentagon staffers are researching whether lesser awards as well as medals presented before September 2001 can also be compiled into a database.
Pentagon officials refused to comment on how far into the past it would eventually extend. The DOD has long insisted that a complete accounting of all major medals would be impossible to compile. They cite various obstacles, including a 1973 fire at a records center in St. Louis that destroyed millions of servicemembers’ files.
The new online resource is not designed to replace congressional efforts to pass a new Stolen Valor Act penalizing fakes for claiming military honors. In its June ruling, the Supreme Court justices said narrower legislation, prohibiting specific harm or profit from the fraud, would likely withstand a constitutional challenge.
Doug Sterner, an archivist who began cataloguing medals privately in 1998, said he was glad the DOD was making a start — but it’s only the barest minimum of a start.
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