Poll: Should it be illegal for non-veterans to wear uniforms/medals?

Based on this thread in Great Debates: Fake Marine in full uniform at his High School reunion is found out by classmate & arrested With pic

Although I like to think that I have the utmost respect for those who serve and have served in the military, I do not think that wearing a uniform and displaying unearned medals should be illegal. Does it dishonor those that have earned the right to wear them? IMHO, yes it does but dishonor shouldn’t be illegal.

If they are doing it in an attempt to pass themselves off as one who has earned those medals, hell yes. They should be flogged. Kids dressing up for Halloween, no.

Question – what if it’s a relative’s? Like say, I have the Purple Heart my grandfather won in WWII. Would it be incorrect to wear it sometimes, just because it belong to him?

What Silenus said. It’s really the medals I’d prohibit more than the uniform.

IANAL but I believe that would be illegal.

From here. I didn’t see anything about exceptions.

November 11th was Rememberence Day here in Canada and a vet friend of mine stopped by on his way home from the legion to chat with me and a couple of friends. We were talking about his medals and my other friend had mentioned his fathers ( WW11 vet). My vet friend said that he should have worn them to the memorial service and that it was perfectly acceptable if he wore them on the right side of his chest. Not sure about the states thuogh.

Not everything we don’t like should be illegal.

I’d vote, but my situation isn’t easily categorized.

In terms of the question, I’d say “depends on the circumstance”. The OP in the linked thread was talking about a person who wore medals for some kind of gain (prestige?) and claimed them as his; that should be illegal. But, in that post, I mention a friend of mine who was wearing his dad’s WWII medal on Remembrance Day in honour of his service on a regular jacket and was not claiming them as his at all. That, I think should be legal.

The second part of the question isn’t something I fall into a neat little category in either. I’ve been in the Canadian Forces, that is to say that I had 6 months of basic training but never made it out, failing my weapons test and was subsequently RTU’d, where I quit (knowing that I’d never be able to pass. It has, at the very least, left me with a huge respect for those in our armed forces. So I wouldn’t say I have no military background, but neither would I say I’m a “veteran” or “active duty”. (“Veteran” to me means having seen conflict. My wife was in the armed forces reserves for 12 years during peacetime, and she was never shipped overseas, but just basically worked on ships (she was in the naval reserves) just like you or I might work in an office building, and I wouldn’t call her a “veteran” either.)

Utterly ridiculous that something like this should be illegal. You’re a complete douchebag if you go around impersonating veterans but you aren’t doing anything that you should be thrown in jail for.

I don’t approve of doing it, but free speech and all, y’know?

Wearing the uniform is not presently illegal, and should not be, depending on the context. Similar to “impersonating an officer” laws, there’s a line between dressing up as an officer or soldier for a Halloween or S&M party or something, and going out and stopping traffic. The first act should be protected under the right to free expression. The second, not so much, any more than one is free to shout “FIRE” in the proverbial crowded theater.

Claiming congressional honors as one’s own is presently illegal, and definitely should be. We’re not talking about showing your father’s or grandfather’s medals, even wearing them, if you say you’re wearing your father’s or grandfather’s medals; nor are we talking about wearing one of those knockoff Semper Fi rings you can get for under $10, or a T-shirt falsely proclaiming “I’M A VIETNAM VET 1967-1968”, which would be protected under free speech laws; but something more along the lines of claiming veteran status for treatment at a VA hospital.

Clearly there is honor and prestige uniquely accorded to those who have been given these distinctions, or this clown wouldn’t have tried to claim them.

In other words, fooling your classmates by playing dress-up is assholery. Stealing from Congress is illegal.

ETA: I voted “non-military background / definitely should be illegal”, because in case of ambiguity, I’d rather it be totally illegal to impersonate an officer or decorated veteran than to leave the door open for open season. To me the downside (complete disregard for the meaning of the uniform/medals because “anybody can wear that”) is far worse than the upside (“hey, I was just kidding, ya know, cut me some slack”).

If they’re doing something illegal while wearing the clothes(impersonating an officer, attempting to gain access to military bases/weaponry, etc.) then bust them for that. But what about the geek wearing army fatigues they picked up at the surplus store? Combat boots? Heck, I have an officer’s dress overcoat that my sister sent me from the base second-hand store that’s comfortable and nice. It doesn’t have any rank insignia or medals on it, but someone in the military would recognize it as a uniform coat pretty easily. Clothes are just clothes IMHO, and surplus/second hand military gear is a great source of low cost, high-quality apparel.

Medals are a slightly different matter, as they’re supposed to be items of specific recognition for specific services. Kind of like displaying a degree from Harvard that you bought at an estate sale partially hidden behind some junk on a shelf so you can’t see the name. Why a person would do it is a major WTF, but if your rights end where my nose begins, I don’t see any harm to my nose from you wearing someone else’s medals.

The situation this came up in could have been better handled, imho, by whoever spotted the inaccuracies in how the faker was wearing their “uniform” and medals calling them out on it on the spot. Then you hold them accountable for their deception in front of the victims of the deception. This creates a social solution to a social issue and doesn’t need to bring the law into it.


I think it should be illegal if the intent is to pass as a veteran – IOW dressing up for a costume party or wearing your grandfather’s purple heart is fine, if you’re not passing it off as your own.

Illegal doesn’t necessarily mean you get thrown in jail for doing it. It could mean that you can get officially ordered to Cut That Out, or that you could be fined, or that the medals could be confiscated.

Free speech doesn’t entitle you to violate a trademark, and it makes a certain amount of sense to me to think of wearing medals you haven’t earned as a sort of trademark violation.

By the way, I didn’t vote, because none of the choices made a distinction between wearing uniforms and wearing medals (or between some of the other circumstances that may be relevant).

I voted “no” on “not every offense needs a specific law against it” grounds. Wearing medals in certain contexts should be a recognized form of criminal fraud. Simply wearing them as a part of a costume or as decoration should not be. I don’t think mere “cheapening the honor” merits Criminal Offense status.

Veteran here. I voted it should be illegal. I don’t have many medals, but the ones I do have I got for laying my ass on the line. You wanna wear medals, you need to earn them.

Same applies to the uniform. I earned the right to wear it. You want to wear it, you should have to earn it too.

Wouldn’t that make casting movies involving the military rather difficult?

It’s fraud. Nothing ambiguous about it, no grey area.

I voted illegal-not military, but I’m really just against people misrepresenting their awards or service.