An unidentified man allegedly impersonating a member of the military caught the attention of four Army privates at The Galleria in Houston, Texas, on Feb. 20. The man, who was later escorted out of the mall, was in a full uniform.
"So I went up to him and I [said], excuse me sir thank you for your service," Private First Class Kevin Barry told KTRK. "And ... immediately he said, oh thanks bro. And I didn't think someone in the military for that long would say bro to me."
The privates asked about the man’s service record, but he balked at showing them a military ID, at which point they labeled him a fake. The man was not arrested, but it’s a federal crime for individuals to pass themselves off as members of the military for gain.
In 2013, the Stolen Valor Act was signed into law by President Obama after the Supreme Court struck down an earlier version that was judged to be too restrictive of free speech, Military.com reported.
The current iteration of the law makes it illegal for anyone to “obtain money, property or other tangible benefits,” from claiming status as a current or former member of the armed services. It’s still unclear if the unidentified man from Houston tried to use his disguise for material gain, but proponents of the law said it was necessary to protect the pride of the military.
"I think this was necessary because people were using it to receive the benefits of decorations of valor, and they were getting monetary benefit from it," said John Stovall, director of national security and foreign relations for The American Legion said when the bill was signed into law.
"That's why we supported the amended version, not to infringe on anyone's First Amendment rights but to protect the reputation and meaning of the decorations.”